A Sony PlayStation gaming console controller is displayed at an electronic shop in Tokyo May 3, 2011. (Reuters/KIM KYUNG-HOON)
WINNIPEG - The video game collection at one Manitoba jail could nearly fill the shelves of an old video rental store, new documents obtained by QMI Agency show.
The Headingley Correctional Centre has 68 titles in its collection, and the games can be played on Sony Playstations in four units, according to a letter supplied to QMI Agency under a Freedom of Information request.
Pimp My Ride, NBA2K12, Guitar Hero Aerosmith and Jeopardy are among the games listed in a letter from Manitoba Justice.
Video games are an "earned privilege" for inmates, the letter reads, and the titles must meet a "strict set" of criteria.
All must be rated "E" for everyone or "T" for teen.
"With the exception of a few games rated 'T' for teen, no games featuring violence, sex or criminal activities are allowed," it states.
Clearly, violent games should be out of the question, but Colin Craig of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation wonders why video games are even offered in jail.
"I think it doesn't sit well with many law-abiding citizens who can't afford to have these games in their homes," spokesman Colin Craig said.
Craig says public dollars are covering the cost of jailhouse video games. Manitoba Justice officials have said the games are purchased using profits from the facility's canteen. That money should be spent elsewhere, Craig argues.
"If there are profits raised, they should go towards paying the costs of the building, electricity, repairs, those kinds of things," he said.
Games might help control inmates' behaviour inside crowded institutions, suggested a prisoners' advocacy group, and guards should have the ability to grant access to games.
"They know best how to manage them. If it's something that can be used as a reward system to best manage their overflowing population, it's up to them," said Kate Kehler, assistant executive director of the John Howard Society in Winnipeg.
Manitoba Justice did not provide an interview, and a spokesman referenced a policy not to discuss day-to-day operations of its facilities. In an e-mail statement, the department said video games are "just one of the recreational opportunities available to inmates."
At Headingley jail, video game privileges are "earned" by inmates, the e-mail said.
"Inmates must exhibit appropriate behaviour within the unit, and if they become involved in a disciplinary infraction or display any other type of behaviour deemed unacceptable, their privileges may be suspended or revoked," it read.
It's not the first time the department has come under fire for its recreational offerings inside jails.It emerged last year that Grand Theft Auto, a game viewed by many as glorifying violence, crime and cop-killing, was once among the titles at Headingley jail.
Last fall, inmates at Dauphin Correctional Centre had access to pay-per-view channels , for two days, including porn programs, because of a cable TV glitch. Earlier that year, former Tory justice critic Kelvin Goertzen said he personally observed Milner Ridge Correctional Centre inmates watching a porn channel. The province defended the situation, saying what Goertzen observed was "intermittent advertising" of 30 to 90 seconds each and the glitch had been corrected.
Two other Alberta facilities let inmates play video games. Women's Correctional Centre and Agassiz Youth Centre each have a pair of Nintendo Wii systems, according to the freedom of information request.
At the teen jail -- which also has a handheld Nintendo game system -- all games meet "strict" criteria, with no violence, sex or criminal activities, and must be rated "E" for everyone, the letter states.
The women's jail has just five titles in its collection, and those games are rated "E" for everyone.