I suppose that mentioning that I'm taking a break from my TV to write this post will only reinforce the prejudices of those who - whilst never having been behind a locked door - feel that prison is just too damn easy.
Prisoner’s TV’s have become totemic for those who subscribe to the Butlins view of prisons. TV’s infuriate swathes of the chattering classes and the political nonentities who echo their wittering. Why? What is the problem?
It's not as if TV’s are thrown our way with breakfast. We have to earn them through good behaviour and we pay a £1 per week for the privilege. No flat-screen, HD or Digital, only some piece of basic 14 inch Korean plastic and glass. Bad boys aren’t allowed them and if, like me, you are unemployed and have an income of £2.50 per week then a TV becomes the major expense.
TV's serve two official purposes. Firstly, as a key carrot in encouraging pro-social behaviour, no other privilege has such a universal appeal. We could be beaten into compliance, of course, but it is a universal truth that people respond better to rewards than punishments.
Secondly, TV's give us a connection to the wider society that allows us to import the changing culture and mores. Whilst prisons may seem to be solitary islands, the reality is that the walls are permeable and that we have a persistent mechanism to stay connected and informed is in society’s interest. We will return to the wider society some day, and it is in the community’s interests that we feel a part of that society. Disconnected people are far more likely to commit future crime.
And TV's in cells are safer. Darkened communal TV rooms encourage an interesting culture of machismo and provide the cover for nefarious activities. Nothing spoils a good film quite as much as the man next to you suddenly keeling over after being clumped on the noggin by a bed-leg that appeared out of the gloom!
So, do you want to deprive me of my telly?