Drop that Shiv, Here’s a Gamepad

Here’s something interesting. The UK Prison Service is banning 18-rated video games for inmates. Other video games are allowed, but only to those who have earned perks through good behaviour.  “We should not forget the usefulness of these games to prison officers and governors keeping order in overcrowded prisons,” Geoff Dobson, deputy director of the Prison Reform Trust, told the BBC.

We’ve already seen here how video games are an effective painkiller. But now the UK’s Prison Service seems to be using them to distract inmates from making shivs and generally getting up to no good on the inside.

Under the new rules, prisoners will have to buy their own game systems, (they were tax funded at first) – but

“Prisoners who are being managed under suicide prevention measures will be allowed access to a games console to occupy them while they are vulnerable.”

Are video games really a good way of keeping your mind off suicide? I wonder. I hope that the Prison Service has good, scientific reasons to be confident about this.

I also wonder whether the inmates are allowed to play networked games, for instance on Xbox live – and if so, are their game actions monitored in a project-Reynard-like way? ‘Cause if you’ve got a convicted killer, on good behaviour, cavorting around and voice-chatting with a bunch of outsiders . . . is it a benign influence for the prisoner, or a danger for the outsiders?

As an optimist, I’d like to think that participating in networked games with non-prisoners could be a good influence. But I hope the Prison Service has considered this.

Any thoughts?

[Via Kotaku]

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