Jailhouse Rock? Missouri prison selling karaoke discs

Wednesday, June 13, 2012 | 5:32 p.m. CDT; updated 9:21 a.m. CDT, Thursday, June 14, 2012

JEFFERSON CITY — For sale: 20 new karaoke discs, including "Guitar Legends," ''Women of Rock" and "Country Hits of the Years."

The seller? The Missouri Department of Corrections.

The state agency that locks up prisoners says there is a logical explanation. And no, it does not involve prisoners dancing to "Jailhouse Rock" or singing "The Folsom Prison Blues."

The 20 karaoke discs — each featuring dozens of songs — came complimentary when the Jefferson City Correctional Center purchased a new karaoke machine for use in its religious ceremonies. Now the Department of Corrections is looking to ditch the DVDs by packaging them with a variety of audio and video equipment being sold in an online auction that closes Thursday evening.

It's the latest example of how Missouri is increasingly turning to the Internet to sell items that once would have been stockpiled in a warehouse until they could eventually be sold at a traditional, onsite auction.

As a result of cost-cutting measures taken over the past several years, Missouri now has less space to host onsite auctions, said Emily Smith, a special assistant to the state commissioner of administration. Traditional auctions also involve more administrative costs, she said.

"Online auctions allow us to dispose of surplus property in an efficient and effective manner, allowing greater access to the public," Smith said Wednesday.

The karaoke machine for the Jefferson City prison was purchased with "canteen funds" — money spent by prisoners for snacks, coffee, personal hygiene products or other items sold at the prison store. The machine is available for religious services held at the prison by a variety of different faiths, said department spokesman Chris Cline.

From the online photo of the karaoke discs on, it's not possible to tell exactly what songs are included. But they did not fit with worship services, Cline said.

"Rather than throw them away, they were made available to the public as surplus property through the standard procedure," he said.

The same website lists more than 500 items for sale by governmental entities in Missouri, including a dump truck, cafeteria-style deep fryer, computers and cellphones.

The Missouri Department of Transportation recently publicized that it was selling almost 200 items — including air compressors, generators, drill presses and lawn mowers — at an online auction following the consolidation of its central Missouri facilities. The agency has been using online auctions since 2005 to dispose of some of its miscellaneous items, said MoDOT spokesman Bob Brendel.

"It greatly reduces our administrative costs," he said. "We do not have to maintain an exhibit space; we don't have to have the public onsite; we don't have to handle cash. We just get more bids and more competition."

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