This is, of course, a matter of opinion which is generally colored to a great degree by one's political leanings. I do not believe that we do "coddle" prisoners.
The main reason I would say this is because people in prison are subject to levels of violence from other prisoners that would be unimaginable in outside life. The prevalence of ethnically based gangs in prisons attests to the fact that people need to be protected from other inmates. So does the high incidence of sexual assault in prisons.
Prisons are fairly brutal places. To some extent this is unavoidable because you have criminals all put together in one place with inadequate supervision. But it is hard for me to believe that prisoners are "coddled" simply because they are allowed to watch TV or play basketball at times.