Gaming in Prison

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Have you ever wondered why gamers are so captivated by their favorite pastime? For many, video games offer a sense of liberation and a temporary escape from the monotony of daily life. But what about inmates who endure the confines of prison day in and day out? Can they access video games while serving their sentences? What types of games are available to them, and could gaming have any rehabilitative benefits? In this article, we’ll explore the world of gaming in prison and shed light on the potential advantages and disadvantages of this recreational activity.

Video Games in Prison

Opinions about the impact of video games on prison life vary. Some view gaming as a sign of a more compassionate prison experience and a potential means of rehabilitation. Others, however, believe that video games hinder the process of reform. Despite different perspectives, prison authorities have their reasons for allowing inmates to engage in gaming activities. Some prisons use games as a distraction to help alleviate stress, while others incorporate game-based learning as part of their rehabilitative programs.

Do Inmates Have Access to Video Games?

Access to video games might seem like a minor concern, but it touches on important aspects such as rehabilitation, mental health care, and civil liberties. In the United States, prison telecommunication companies like Securus and Global Tel-Link offer paying inmates from both public and private prisons the opportunity to play video games. While some may see this service as a way for inmates to briefly experience life outside prison walls, others are skeptical of the profit-driven motives behind it. Nevertheless, prisons recognize the need for entertainment and allow inmates to play video games to alleviate boredom and help them cope with their circumstances.

Video Games in Prison: A Pro for the Cons

Certain prisons cooperate with telecommunication companies to grant inmates access to video games. To ensure security, these companies work closely with correctional institutions to provide safe gaming options. For example, the Oregon Department of Corrections allows well-behaved inmates to purchase Xbox products and controllers. Some inmates are even allowed to keep their gaming consoles in their cells. Each facility may offer different gaming consoles, such as Xbox or PlayStation. Supporters argue that video games promote positive behavior, while critics see it as another avenue for capitalists to profit from prisoners. The debate continues regarding the potential impact of video games on inmate behavior.

Fight for Your Right to Game

Advocates for video games in prison believe that gaming can relieve stress, foster a sense of community, and improve mental health among inmates. They advocate for controlled access to video games as a means of rehabilitation. In the United Kingdom, for example, inmates are allowed to play more up-to-date games on modern consoles, albeit with restrictions on internet and Wi-Fi access. For inmates, gaming offers an alternative way to combat boredom and find purpose in an otherwise challenging environment. Studies have shown that inmate idleness is associated with depression and aggressive behavior, making the need for recreational activities even more crucial.

What Type of Gaming Consoles Do You Have in Jails and Prisons?

Gaming experiences within prison walls differ from the outside world. While inmates don’t usually have access to the newest consoles like Xbox or PlayStation, many prisons have implemented tablet programs. In some cases, prisons distribute tablets from their budget, while in others, inmates can purchase tablets with their own funds. The games available on these tablets depend on the associations or companies providing them. However, these games can be costly, and many inmates are reluctant to spend a significant amount of money on gaming.

Can You Have an Xbox or a Playstation in Prison?

The availability of Xbox or PlayStation consoles in prison depends on the governing jurisdiction. Inmates might have to purchase these consoles themselves, as prisons typically do not provide them. Some facilities may allow external consoles but strictly regulate their use. In contrast, others opt for providing tablets instead of traditional gaming consoles. For example, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has implemented tablet programs, either by providing the devices or allowing inmates to purchase them from the commissary. These tablets usually come pre-loaded with games like Solitaire, but inmates often find them less entertaining due to their limited quality and high cost.

Can You Play Online Video Games in Jail or Prison?

Correctional facilities generally do not permit inmates to have internet access, which means that gaming consoles cannot guarantee online gameplay. Moreover, bringing in newer consoles that require internet access is prohibited. However, retro consoles like the original PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Sega Genesis, Game Boy, and Super Nintendo, which do not rely on internet access, are suitable for prison use.

Benefits of Playing Video Games in Prison

Contrary to the misconception that video games are mindless distractions, gaming can offer various benefits to inmates. For instance, playing video games can improve cognitive functions, problem-solving skills, multitasking abilities, and hand-eye coordination. Additionally, gaming keeps inmates occupied and less likely to cause trouble, promoting better decision-making and behavior.

Do Video Games Help With Inmate Rehabilitation?

Countries like the U.K. and the U.S. believe that video games can aid in inmate rehabilitation. By allowing inmates to engage in real gaming experiences, these institutions provide an opportunity for personal growth and skill development.

Should Inmates Be Allowed to Play Video Games in Prison?

Opinions on whether inmates should be allowed to play video games in prison vary. Supporters argue that games can enhance concentration, relieve stress, and teach essential skills such as problem-solving, communication, and collaboration. They also suggest that video games can serve as a reward system, encouraging good behavior. However, opponents worry about the potential addictive nature of gaming and its potential to desensitize inmates to violence. Further research is needed to fully understand the implications of granting inmates access to video games.

What Are the Available Video Games for Inmates in Prison or Jail?

Available video games vary between institutions. Some games that inmates may have access to include Call of Duty, Destiny, Forza Motorsport, FIFA, and Guitar Hero.

Bonds Behind Bars

Video games offer more than just passive entertainment for those behind bars. Gaming provides inmates with a positive and purposeful activity, fostering a sense of community and promoting mental health. It allows inmates to escape the boredom and stress of prison life and establish meaningful connections with others in a place where such bonds are rare.


While some institutions allow limited internet access for gaming purposes, most prisons have strict restrictions on online activities. In many cases, the internet is primarily used for communication, and inmates are limited to email correspondence. However, some facilities may provide inmates with restricted internet access after a thorough vetting process. In such cases, inmates are closely monitored to ensure compliance with rules and regulations. It’s important to note that access to the internet outside of prison walls is a separate issue altogether.

The Same, but Different

Although inmates may have the opportunity to play video games within prison walls, the freedom they experience online is quite different. However, as long as inmates are striving to improve themselves, society should not deny them the chance to have fun. It’s essential to remember not to bring in contraband, as that could result in serious consequences.


  1. The Catalog of Carceral Surveillance: Prison Gaming and AR/VR Services
  2. Inmate Mental Health and the Pains of Imprisonment
  3. Tablets and Telephone Calls