Can You Play Video Games In Prison?

It’s no secret that video games are a multi-billion dollar industry. Over the past three decades, gaming has become a bigger business than the movie and music industry combined. And, even if you don’t have a gaming console, chances are you have a gaming app on your phone, so you can play some Candy Crush or Angry Birds when you get bored.

Video games are such a big business that an entirely new industry was created in the past decade: ESports. In fact, some of those ESports leagues are starting to rival the TV ratings of professional sports leagues, like Major League Baseball.

But, what about when you go to prison? This leads us to today’s blog post: can you play video games in prison?

In this blog post, I will cover the following topics:

  • Can you play XBox in prison?
  • Do video games help with inmate rehabilitation?

Can you play XBox in Prison?

You might be surprised to learn that some prison inmates in the United States have access to video games. Of course, your gaming experience inside of prison walls is completely different from the free world.

Inmates do not have access to XBox, Playstation, or any other gaming console. Instead, many inmates play video games via inmate tablets. Prisons throughout the United States are starting inmate tablet programs, with some DOCs providing their inmates with tablets for free, and others allowing inmates to buy the tablets from the commissary.

The companies who provide these tablets, JPay and GTL, don’t share what kind of games are available. But, from those I have talked to, the games that are available are simple phone games like Solitaire. The sad thing is that the price for tablet games in prison can be as much as $10, so many inmates can’t afford it or aren’t willing to spend that kind of money for a game.

Do video games help with inmate rehabilitation?

Other countries like Canada and the UK do allow their inmates to play real video games on real consoles. And, it turns out that videogames are actually extremely helpful with inmate rehabilitation.

In the UK, inmates fought for the right to play video games on Playstation and XBox, and those games help the inmates stay out of trouble.

“If you’re in a cell on your own, locked in at night, that’s where a lot of people can have problems,” former inmate Harry Harper told Vice Gaming. “You can keep yourself busy by watching telly, but there’s only so much of that you can stand, because you only have a handful of channels. I’ll sit there and write letters, I’ll read, because I’m educated; but some of the lads in there are illiterate. They’ve never been to school. You get a lot of self-harm in there, too. And when boredom kicks in, that’s when you start thinking about those things. So having the consoles keeps minds occupied, I think.”

Of course, the inmates don’t have access to violent video games or those with sexual content. But, playing a game of Guitar Hero is a lot better than nothing at all.

Do you think inmates should be allowed to play video games? Let us know in the comments below.


Do Inmates Have Access to Video Games?

20 Video Games Every Inmate Plays In Jail

“Free” Tablets Are Costing Inmates A Fortune

The Benefits of Gaming Behind Bars

About the Author Natalie

Natalie earned her Bachelors degree in Journalism from the University of Kansas, and has worked in television and radio during her career. When she was a 19-year-old sophomore at KU, she got her first on-air job as a sports reporter for a CBS-TV affiliate. In 2013, she was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the possession and production of marijuana. She was released in 2017. We've kept her last name off of our website so that she does not experience any professional hardship for her contributions.

  • Scott says:

    Natalie, this article is outdated and wrong. A family member at Oregon State Prison had a PS1 and, is now getting an Xbox1

  • Chawn says:

    That’s not true that inmates can have consoles in prison. My son is allowed consoles. He also has a tablet. They just don’t have internet. Also my bf brother has a console in prison.

  • Quick says:

    ROTFLMAF! This article was correct in 1989. Get your head outta the sand chic.

  • J. Heinrichs says:

    Yes, I fully believe prisoners should have gaming systems like the Nintendo Switch, Xbox & PS. There are many adventure games, sports games, puzzle games that are not criminal violence. Video games can stimulate the mind. Games would be a very positive reward for good inmate behavior as well imo.

  • Lawrence says:

    Natalie Im trying to start a program dealing with video games in a prison, can you help?

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