36,000 inmates play games consoles
Published 08/11/2010 | 19:34
More than 36,000 inmates are allowed to play video games in prison, figures have shown.
Junior justice minister Crispin Blunt said more than a third of prisoners in England and Wales were eligible to own games consoles under a good behaviour scheme.
But he stressed that no public money had been used to buy consoles or games for adult prisoners since 2008, with inmates and their families footing the bill.
In a written parliamentary answer to Helen Grant, Tory MP for Maidstone and the Weald, Mr Blunt said 36,202 prisoners were on the "enhanced level" of the incentives and earned privileges scheme and "eligible to have a games console of their own in their possession".
"To establish how many of those eligible actually had a games console of their own would necessitate asking each prisoner individually at disproportionate cost," said Mr Blunt. "Since July 23, 2008, no public funds have been used to purchase games consoles for adult prisoners. They must be purchased by the prisoner or his/her family or friends."
Mr Blunt also said 83,017 prisoners were eligible to rent in-cell televisions under the good behaviour scheme - 97% of the 85,269 people currently jailed in England and Wales.
Philip Davies, Tory MP for Shipley, asked what video games had to do with rehabilitation as he hit out at the figures.
"It's just further evidence that prisons resemble more of a holiday camp than a place of punishment," he said "When people reflect on the reasons that inmates are in prison they will be appalled that prisoners are allowed to do this kind of thing. Prison should be a punishment for committing either serious or persistent offences. Most people will conclude that prison has completely lost sight of what its purpose is - punishing or even rehabilitating people."
In 2008, an audit turned up 12,948 games consoles in prisons and young offender institutions, with £221,726 of taxpayers' money spent on PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo systems and software.
Last year it emerged that more than 4,000 prisoners had satellite television in their cells.