Video Games are Hot (in Prison)

The Associated Press has a piece up about a particularly unique behavior incentive being used in Oregon prisons: video games. The state's prison system allows for inmates to "buy" various items after several consecutive months of good behavior. Six clean months buys a 7" LCD TV. Eighteen clean months buys a video game console preloaded with 50 games--presumably, the consoles are generic-brand systems with Atari- or NES-styled games. Prison wardens state that the systems have become coveted items in the cells, and prisoners have been motivated to stay out of trouble in order to earn them.
Prison records show seven incidents in which Dodgin was sent to disciplinary segregation. But now, Dodgin says, he's been free of trouble for almost two years, thanks in part to the video games he gets to play at the Two Rivers Correctional Institution in Umatilla, where the 23-year-old is serving nine years for assault, attempted escape and other crimes.

Dodgin said nothing takes his mind off prison like the intergalactic war game Star Ally.

"You get all these weapons and you've got to beat the four boss men," Dodgin said. "You kill your enemies. They let off these bubbles sometimes. You collect their bubbles, and you get all these weapons."

There are a number of other goods and opportunities inmates can buy with their months of good behavior, including CD players and music, the privelege to attend ice cream parties, and extra visiting hours. It's certainly encouraging to see cases of video games proving an effective diversion from real world violence rather than an alleged cause of it, but one wonders if Oregon's system doesn't at least somewhat defeat the point of prison itself.