Scottish prisons offering library of violent films

Scarface is available for prisoners to watch. Picture: PA
Scarface is available for prisoners to watch. Picture: PA
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INMATES at Scottish prisons have access to a massive library of slasher flicks, violent horror movies and bloodthirsty shoot-em-up computer games, documents released today reveal.

Criminals including murderers, violent thugs and rapists can pick from more than 4100 DVDs and 470 computer games across the Scottish prison system.

Picture: Rockstar Games

Picture: Rockstar Games

That includes controversial games such as Grand Theft Auto IV, brutally violent gang crime movies such as Snatch and even DVDs featuring routines by controversial comedian Roy “Chubby” Brown.

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

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

The Scottish Prison Service today 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.

Picture: Barlinnie Prison

Picture: Barlinnie Prison

Convicts at HMP Barlinnie alone have a catalogue of 1255 movie and TV titles available to watch, according to documents released under freedom of information legislation.

That includes the ultra violent revenge thriller Kill Bill 2, in which Uma Thurman carries out a string of brutal killings.

They even have access to documentary series’ titled “Notorious Killers” and “Serial Killers” - which chart the lives of brutal murderers such as Dennis Nilson, Fred and Rose West and the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe.

Meanwhile, young offenders at Polmont YOI in Falkirk can play Grand Theft Auto IV - controversial as it encourages players to drink drive and commit murder to progress through its fictional world.

Life inside Glasgow's Barlinnie Prison. Prisoners in their cells, washing dishes , cooking in the kitchen, in the exercise yards, prison gym, laundry. The Governor is Derek McGill.'Picture Robert Perry The Scotsman 1st Feb 2012

Life inside Glasgow's Barlinnie Prison. Prisoners in their cells, washing dishes , cooking in the kitchen, in the exercise yards, prison gym, laundry. The Governor is Derek McGill.'Picture Robert Perry The Scotsman 1st Feb 2012

Amazingly, the list of movie titles available to youths locked up in Scotland’s only Young Offender’s Institution at Polmont is littered with 18 rated titles - even though teens aged 16 and 17 are routinely locked up there.

Some of the movies available in the YOI include Green Street - the football hooliganism movie criticised for “glorifying” soccer violence - and adult rated flicks such as Scarface, Smokin’ Aces and The Departed.

Gang violence

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, directed by Steve Buscemi and featuring 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.

Cons at Barlinnie can play first person shooter Medal of Honor, inmates at Dumfries have access to games from the Call of Duty series, fighter Dead or Alive and Grand Theft Auto.

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 DVD’s 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.”


Aberdeen - no DVDs or games

Barlinnie - 1255 DVDs, 74 games

Cornton Vale - 145 DVDS, 14 games

Dumfries - 1043 DVDs, 177 games

Edinburgh - no DVDs or games

Glenochil- no DVDs or games

Greenock - no DVDs, 2 games

Inverness - 343 DVDs, 54 games

Low Moss - 267 DVDs, 0 games

Open Estate (Castle Huntly) - 13 DVDs, 13 games

Perth - no DVDs or games

Peterhead - 306 DVDs, 0 games

Polmont - 433 DVDs, 24 games

Shotts - 366 DVDs, 114 games

Total - 4171 DVDS, 472 games


HMP Barlinnie:

A Perfect Murder

Notorious Killers: John Haigh - “The Acid Bath Murderer”

The Krays: A Life of Crime

HMP Peterhead:

Roy Chubby Brown - “The Helmet Rides Again”

SAW 1-5: “Goreology”

The Departed

HMP Polmont:

The Godfather Trilogy

This Is England

Green Street

Grand Theft Auto IV