Prisoners of our own device

One of the UK tabloid press’ regular whinges is that prisoners have it too easy. That they get to mooch about playing computer games all day at the tax payer’s expense.


I’ve always found it a rather dim witted argument, because being confined for most of the day and kept separate from your loved ones sounds rough as hell. I’ve always felt that any journalist who writes one of these pieces should have to spend six months inside, to back up their claims. I’d bet pounds to penny chews that before they got half way through they’d have changed their tune and be begging to come out.

Yes, prisons today are probably far nicer than in days of yore, but is that really a bad thing? Just because someone breaks the law doesn’t mean they should be treated like some kind of animal.

The argument about TVs and video games has always rung hollow with me, because I think most people would rather forego television and games for the rest of their life if they were allowed to be released. I don’t care how good people say The Wire is, I doubt it’s gonna make up for being kept apart from your friends and family and stuck in a cell.

It would seem that computer games lose their lustre, according to a story I read today.

Apparently in New Zealand, house arrests are extremely popular because it’s so much cheaper than keeping someone in jail, with 200 people in the Northland area (which has a population of around 158,300). Sounds like a cushy number, right? Being stuck in your own house for a couple of months, how bad can it be.

Bloody terrible I imagine.

I spent around a year on the dole and was under virtual house arrest for much of that time. I could come and go if I wanted, but I was so skint there wasn’t anywhere I could really go. I quickly started getting cabin fever, I mean, there’s only so many Friends repeats a man can watch before he starts to come apart.

So, I felt bad for a dude who was doing an 11 month stretch in his house. The only New Zealand TV show I’ve ever heard of is hospital set soap opera Shortland Street, and that was mind warpingly terrible, even my Nan, a soap junkie wasn’ t hooked.

The guy clearly got fed up, because 10 months into his home detention the guy asked if he could go inside for the rest of the sentence, because he was so bored at home that he knew he’d probably wind up breaking the terms of his sentence.

The cops have stated that he had “run out of Xbox games to play”.

I’ll bet. Dude was probably climbing the walls. I know a lot of gamers would think being stuck in and allowed to play all day sounds awesome, but I bet it gets old real quick. Playing for hours is fun, if it’s by choice.

I’ll happily spend hours sitting on my couch, slowly sterilizing myself by sitting with a hot laptop or watching TV but I know I can leave whenever I want. I can walk to the shops, go for a jog, head into town or hang out with mates. If you told me all I could do was sit on the couch and wait around for 10 months? I’d lose it quick.

I’d feel isolated, claustrophobic and quickly work through all my best DVDs and books.

Some might argue that this fella’s decision to go to prison shows that prison is soft, but personally I think it’s the sensible choice. At least he’ll get to hang out and meet new people in prison. Also, he’s only 19, he has no idea what he’s letting himself in for and it’s only for a month anyway. A month in prison may give him a glimpse into the path his life might take if he doesn’t get back on track, whereas another month on the couch will just leave him fed up and bored. He won’t have learnt anything, other than to buy more computer games.

And it means he won’t break the terms of his sentence, which is probably a damn sight easier and more tempting while under home detention.

Anyway, what we’ve learnt here is simple- prison isn’t cushy and secondly, there is such a thing as too much free time.

The story is here.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


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