Prison is often seen as one of the worst places for people to have to live. Inmates are usually deprived of not only their freedom and liberty but also a whole host of other luxuries or rights that people living in public take for granted. For most this is seen as a perfectly acceptable state of affairs.
After all, those serving sentences in prison are doing so because they committed a crime and they therefore have to be punished accordingly. Taking away many of the things they are accustomed to having in normal life is part of that process, and it also ensures the safety of other prisoners and staff from objects that could be used as weapons or to smuggle narcotics.
This idea isn’t fully subscribed to, though. In fact, there are many prisons around the world that don’t simply aim to punish individuals for the crimes they have done but rather try to rehabilitate them. Often this can involve giving inmates certain privileges and incentives for good behavior. While many people will be aware of some of the basic perks given to inmates, like a television or extra visits from families, it might surprise you to learn that there are some far odder and downright bizarre things that prisoners can get while locked up.
15. MP3 Players Filled With Music
Music is one of the few things that every single culture and ethnic group on the planet enjoys. It is a truly universal concept that has spread across the world and has been part of our history since the very early stages of human evolution. It is no wonder then that the music industry is such a big business and how devices such as MP3 players and iPods are able to sell millions of units around the globe.
A program that was trialed in 2012 by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons gave inmates the chance to purchase an MP3 player from the prison commissary with any money they had earned from work or been sent by friends and family. They could then choose to have it pre-loaded with any song from a list of 1 million tracks. However, all tracks containing explicit language were banned.
14. Video Game Consoles
Arguably one of the biggest and most expensive luxuries that people buy in modern times is a video games console. They can provide countless hours of fun, whether from multiplayer gaming or massive singleplayer experiences. They are, however, not something that most people would consider a necessity. This perhaps explains why so many people were so upset when it emerged that up to a third of all inmates in the UK have access to a video game console.
There are plenty of restrictions regarding the use of the consoles, meaning they are not simply given to prisoners on demand. Instead, only those with the highest ratings for trust and good behavior can have a console in their cell, while the choice of games is limited to those that do not have an adult rating. Additionally, most of the consoles are older devices, such as a PlayStation or Nintendo 64, so that they cannot be used to connect to the internet. According to prison officials, the consoles help inmates pass time and so reduce violence and increase safety for guards.
13. Bungalows Rather Than Cells
Norway not only has a relatively low prison population but it also has an incredibly low reoffending rate. Much of this is put down to the way they treat prisoners, with two of the country’s facilities offering them the chance to live in small bungalows rather than cells. They include in-built toilets and showers, televisions and even decking so that they can sunbathe during the summer months.
Arne Nilsen, governor of the prison, explains that this is part of the normality principle that operates within Norway, where daily prison life should be as removed as little as possible from ordinary life.
“In the law, being sent to prison is nothing to do with putting you in a terrible prison to make you suffer. The punishment is that you lose your freedom. If we treat people like animals when they are in prison they are likely to behave like animals. Here we pay attention to you as human beings.”
12. Chocolate Bars & Snacks
One of the biggest complaints you hear from people who have spent time behind bars is about how poor the food is. Former convicts often talk about the lack of choice and the substandard quality of the meals that they are served while incarcerated – something that many people might feel is exactly what they deserve. What many people do not realize, though, is that it is possible for inmates to supplement their provided food with snacks and ready meals bought from a commissary.
These additional foods are often branded products and can range from instant noodles to coffee. One of the most popular types of snacks are chocolate bars, with prisoners able to get their hands on Twix, Mars, Snickers, and various others. Although, the items all have a significant markup cost compared to their usual prices, making them difficult to buy with a prisoner’s wages.
11. Musical Instruments
Although it makes perfect sense to give prisoners some hobby materials and items to keep them entertained so that they don’t become bored and violent, musical instruments are not something that most people would associate with a jail. However, there are plenty of different prisons across the United States and other countries that give inmates the chance to play musical instruments as part of rehabilitation programs. They include the likes of guitars, harmonicas, recorders and flutes.
While the vast majority of prisons do not allow their inmates to keep musical instruments in their cells, instead choosing to keep them in a secure location or library facility, some do allow them to keep their instruments. This gives them more chance to practice and learn the instrument, keeping them occupied so that they do not become bored.
10. The Chance To Work In A Fancy Restaurant
Almost every prison offers inmates the chance to carry out some sort of work while they are incarcerated. This often involves working in the prison facilities, such as the kitchen or library. However, several in the UK now provide the opportunity for a select group of inmates to work in a fancy restaurant run by a Michelin-starred chef.
Alberto Crisci set up his charity, The Clink, in 2005 as a way of helping prisoners to learn new skills and hopefully reduce recidivism rates. He now operates three high-class restaurants in facilities around the UK, where all of the food is served and prepared by inmates. The only stipulations for working in the restaurants are that the workers must have been well behaved for some time and fully observe the rules. Any infraction, no matter how small, means that they are kicked off the program for good.
9. Sewing Kits & Art Materials
Almost every prisoner is allowed access to certain craft items while behind bars. Often, they will only include very basic items such as pencils, writing pads, and scrapbooks so that they can write and draw while in their cells. Other items are restricted because of the fact that they could be modified to be used as weapons or other tools.
That hasn’t stopped many facilities from giving certain inmates the chance to keep extra arts and crafts materials in their cell if they are behaving and meeting rehabilitation targets. Some of the additional items can include paint, brushes and canvases – though there are also some more bizarre choices that would seem out of place in a prison. Those who are the most trusted can also get access to sewing and knitting kits, including sharp needles.
8. Subscription Based Television
Almost every single prison in the world offers some perks for inmates as an incentive for good behavior. These often take the form of little luxuries, including television sets that can be used to watch a limited amount of channels. This was not the case in the UK, though, where thousands of prisoners in privately run facilities were able to access paid subscription digital television services from Sky.
This not only gave them access to basic channels but also to expensive subscription offerings that included, movies, news and even live sports, depending on the discretion of the director running the establishment. This caused outrage amongst the general public, many of whom were unable to afford their own subscription to Sky television.
7. Internet Access
The ability to connect to and use the internet has become one of the most basic rights for huge numbers of people. The web has evolved into something that millions of people rely on every single day, whether it is for work, communication, information gathering, or simply entertainment.
Despite this, there has been a large amount of protest at the idea of giving prisoners the ability to go on the internet. After all, it would give inmates the opportunity to harass victims and witnesses or communicate with gang members or other criminals. That hasn’t stopped some facilities from giving prisoners the chance to send emails and access the web from specially installed kiosks.
“This is how people communicate in 2016,” said Dave Maass of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “We’re making fewer calls, and do most of our communications through instant messaging, Facebook and other types of social media. There’s a better chance of rehabilitation if inmates are allowed to communicate in the way people do it in the 21st century.”
Along with giving various prisoners the chance to go online through special timed kiosks, certain institutions have also initiated programs whereby prisoners can get their hands on tablet computers. These are generally made by companies such as JPay or Enovo, who create custom tablets specifically for prisons and jails.
According to these organizations, the tablets make for safer prisons and lowers the chances of an inmate reoffending when they are released back into society. This is because the tablets offer them the chance to communicate with friends and family, via email and other messaging services, listen to music, watch videos, and even get access to educational material so they can develop their own skills. Additionally, because everything is run on an exclusive and closed-off system, there are very few risks associated with inmates having the devices in their possession.
5. Skiing And Fishing Equipment
As part of the same program run in Norway that allows particular prisoners to live in open facilities inside small bungalows rather than traditional cells, the country also offers extensive hobbyist equipment to anyone who has proved they are trustworthy. These can even include items such as skis and fishing rods, allowing the population to keep entertained and maintain their fitness through physical activity.
These types of items are not simply handed out, however. Anyone wishing to get access to this sort of equipment has to pay for it themselves, using money that they have earned as part of the work they carry out in the prison. Officials see this as a way of rehabilitating the offenders and preparing them for life back in public.
4. Animals That Are Used As Pets
Ever since Bangkwang Prison in Thailand began to offer wild cats that were living in the area to inmates as adopted pets, various prison services around the world have also taken up similar concepts. In most instances, the prisoners are given the chance to adopt cats or other small animals as pets. They then spend their own money buying food and other essential items for the pets as they look after them.
Most research carried out on prisons that offer such programs have found that inmates who have adopted their own animal within the facility are much less likely to be violent. In fact, many even learn new skills, such as reading, so that they can better look after their furry friends. The programs have strict rules, which encourage good behavior as the pet can be taken away if the inmates misbehave.
3. A Better Life Expectancy
While it might seem strange to think the prison could be a safer and healthier environment than the outside world, there has been research to suggest that this could be the case. In particular, those from poorer backgrounds or are part of an ethnic minority are more likely to contribute to this type of statistic.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics published a report in 2011 that suggested that black males are more likely to die when released from prison than they would if they were to remain incarcerated. It also found survival rates of similarly aged groups were much lower in public compared to prison, further adding fuel to the idea that black prisoners are actually more likely to die outside of prison.
The reason behind this isn’t gang-related violence or other types of crime but rather to do with a divide between the healthcare provided to different races in the United States. Several studies showed that the likely cause of this finding is that black males simply get better healthcare inside a prison than they do outside.
2. Family Hotel Rooms
Saudi Arabia has been heavily criticized over the past decade for its supposed ill-treatment of prisoners. Many international organizations and charities have accused the ruling regime of torturing inmates and keeping them in cruel conditions that are psychologically and physically damaging. However, there are some facilities that are taking a different route in regards to those convicted of terrorist offenses.
The al-Hair high-security prison essentially showers its population with perks and luxuries in an attempt to de-radicalize them and ensure their families don’t become radicalized themselves. This includes access to a whole host of amenities, with the most striking being a collection of hotel-like rooms that can cater for several family members. This allows the wife and children of a prisoner to visit and stay at the facility for extended periods of time.
1. Adult Movies
While most people would not find it unusual for a prisoner to be able to watch films or television shows while incarcerated, they would likely be shocked to find out that they can watch adult movies. A facility in Antwerp, Belgium is doing exactly that, using a special system known as PrisonCloud, which allows inmates to download p*rnographic movies for a set fee.
According to deputy director of the prison, Wim Adriaenssen, the ability to access p*rnographic videos is part of a program of treating inmates as human beings. It provides them with the same kind of things that wider society enjoys and ensures their needs are met.
“People will be shocked but watching p*rn in prison, especially for young people who are incarcerated, it’s a kind of an ersatz for something else. It’s also in our interest to keep them in humane conditions and that means providing for certain things.”