Friday, September 3, 2010


The other day I was visited by a person who had had no previous experience of prison and during the conversation, PlayStations were mentioned. He raised an eyebrow.."You have PlayStations?!"

He was terribly polite but a touch of incredulity slipped through.

Yes, numbers of us have PlayStations. But as with everything prison-related, it's not that straightforward. What privileges we are allowed is always contentious, fair enough, but people rarely appreciate the context of the reality.

Our individual privileges are determined by our level on the Incentives and Earned Privileges Scheme. The better our behaviour, the higher our privileges. We earn them. Rewarding pro-social behaviour is not, I think, wholly objectionable?

Once we achieve that level of privileges, we may be allowed a PlayStation. Not a PS 3, though. Don't let your imagination carry you away. Some prisons only allow us to have PlayStation One's, defunct for a decade. At best, we can have a PS2. And the games we are allowed are restricted to those below Rated 18.

Of course, telling a man he can have a PlayStation is one thing. Actually getting one is quite another! The Governor doesn't come and present it, wrapped in a ribbon. We have to buy it with our own money.

On an average wage of around £7, and with a PS2 costing at least £50 (second hand), plus the cost of games, it can be appreciated that being allowed a PlayStation and actually having one are two different things. And it is confiscated in the face of poor behaviour.

There is a constituency that would profoundly object to this. I invite them to throw in their points at this juncture.


  1. In America, the TV is considered the ultimate babysitter for prisoners. To those who decry such privileges as PlayStations, consider what the alternative activities are: violence, drugs...

  2. One of the reasons playstations and TVs became allowed in prisoners' cells in the UK is because the amount of out-of-cell time has decreased considerably since the Strangeways incident in the early 90s. Given that as prisoners (even on a standard/enhanced regime) can be locked up for 20 hours per day (despite guidelines to the contrary), I would think that televisions and playstations are guardians of sanity. I'll bet many suicides and/or acts of violence are prevented by these simple things.

    Also, the screws are generally pro the prisoners having these things in their cells - keeps the lags more docile!

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  4. So basically you save up your income to buy things that give you pleasure....just like the majority of us.

    Haha, that must infuriate the gutter press even more - 'Man earns money to buy play station' doesn't make a great tabloid headline does it?

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  6. Hi Ben et al,

    I read this blog with intrest after finding it through the Howard League.
    I'm a university lecturer in criminology and have taken numerous students over the last eight years to a number of prisons,(Wandsworth, Pentonville, Scrubs, Grendon, Aylsbury,etc). Some of my students are taken aback by the fact that some prisoners have TV's, playstations and the like available to them let alone in their individual cells! They reckon it's really easy.
    I usually have to remind them of a few things. Firstly, how many times have they gone out for a drink with mates, seen their family, celebrated Xmas/birthdays, etc, in the last 6 months. Importantly as well I ask them if they have a PS3, LCD TV etc and most of them have.
    The majority students taking pure criminology take in this juxtaposition. Not too good for the policing students I teach though ,(there's an element of lock 'em up/ bread and water....)

    1. You have no clue on what its like in a jail, I do!! We are given are punishments, but that don't mean we aint intitled to, tv's, xbox's, or ps2 or 3's if they juditional system was clever, they would know what to do or even tell, if a console is able 2 gain internet access or not, only people I would say gets the "back lash" of pure prison, are rapiests and child offenders! Steriotypying every one who goes into jail, as bad as the rest is, narrow minded, and doesn't have a clue! Read from a collage book, or study criminolagy, but that means nothing it aint reality, only made up by people who think they know or what they have heard! In my opinion,,, you lot don't haver a clue on what it is like inside those places. Have some comman sence, as I can tell by the comments you don't!! Have a little respect because there are people who have gone to jail for a aligit crime! I.e protectin there loved onces or helpin a friend out in desprite need, or family???? Do any of those things pop up in your lectures before you lot crusify us laballing us all the same!??!

  7. Pete, point your students here and they can send in any questions! Editor.

  8. Pete, I may be going out on a limb here but I'm prepared to bet that the number of your students who've been out to celebrate Christmas in the past 6 months is around zero.

  9. Hi Steve H

    Only just caught up on this as we've been planning freshers week for the little darlings who join us next week.
    Sorry. To be precise, we normally take students to visit prisons either just before Xmas or just after. Then give them the subsequent scenario.

    I'm definitly pointing my syudents in the direction of this blog.