Scottish prison inmates have access to violent films

Earlier this year a Holyrood committee recommended limits be placed on the amount of TV watched by inmates. Picture: TSPL
Earlier this year a Holyrood committee recommended limits be placed on the amount of TV watched by inmates. Picture: TSPL
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INMATES at Scottish prisons have access to a massive library of violent horror movies and shoot-em-up computer games, documents revealed yesterday.

Criminals including murderers, violent thugs and rapists can pick from more than 4,100 DVDs and 470 computer games across the Scottish prison 
system. They include controversial games such as Grand Theft Auto IV and brutally violent gang crime movies such as Snatch.

Earlier this year a Holyrood committee recommended limits be placed on the amount of TV watched by inmates.

But in January Scottish Prison Service chief executive Colin 
McConnell said he was a “fan of TVs in cells” for prisoners, with “loads of positives that come from that”.

The Scottish Prison Service yesterday said the DVDs and games were paid for out of a Common Good fund financed from the profits of prison shops and that access was restricted by governors.

Convicts at HMP Barlinnie alone have a catalogue that would put a high street video shop to shame – with 1,255 movie and TV titles available to watch, according to documents released under freedom of information legislation.

It includes ultra violent revenge thriller Kill Bill 2, in which Uma Thurman carries out a string of brutal killings. Inmates also have access to documentary series titled Notorious Killers and Serial Killers, charting the lives of brutal murderers such as Dennis Nilsen, Fred and Rose West and the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe.

Meanwhile, the list of films available to youths locked up in Scotland’s only Young Offender’s Institution, at Polmont, near Falkirk, is littered with 18-rated titles – even though teens aged 16 and 17 are routinely locked up there. Films include Green Street – the football hooliganism movie criticised for “glorifying” soccer violence – and adult-rated productions such as Scarface, Smokin’ Aces and The Departed.

Computer games include Grand Theft Auto IV, which requires players to drink-drive and commit murder to progress through its fictional world.

Prisoners at HMP Shotts – which holds murderers and others serving life terms – also have a massive DVD library, which includes the 2000 crime drama Animal Factory.

The movie, starring Mickey Rourke and Willem Dafoe, features gang violence inside a US jail – including the murder of an inmate and elaborate escape plans.

Meanwhile, a range of blood-thirsty shoot-em-up games are available across the prison system.

Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont said: “The fact we are debating what severity of horror films prisoners should be allowed to watch tells you everything you need to know about jail in today’s Scotland.

“It seems crazy to lay on entertainment of this type to those who happily subjected their victims to misery.

“Inmates should consider themselves lucky to be able to watch or play any type of DVD or computer game.

“The fact access to the most violent and gory appears widely available needs to be looked at.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Prison Service said: “Access to watching DVDs is a privilege, not a right, and is available at the discretion of the Governor.

“The vast majority of these DVDs are gifted by prisoners, donated by visitors or bought through the prisoners’ Common Good Fund.”

Earlier this year, SPS chief executive Colin McConnell caused controversy when he told a committee of MSPs that television could be a “window on the world” for inmates.

He said: “It’s about keeping informed about what’s going on, and actually it’s a displacement activity as well.

“If it stops somebody thinking horrible thoughts about themselves or others and encourages discourse about Coronation Street, the news or whatever it might be, I think there’s loads of positives that come from that.

“I know it’s one of those issues that polarises people, but I think there’s a place for it.”