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article imageUK: Thousands of prisoners have Sky pay-to view TV

By Steve Hayes     Sep 29, 2012 in Politics
Shipley - Thousands of prisoners have Sky subscription television in their cells at taxpayer expense. The figures were released by the government in response to a query by Shipley MP Philip Davies.
The news emerged only days after new Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, promised he and the government would ensure that prisons were not "holiday camps". According to the Daily Telegraph, only last week Mr Grayling said:
Prison is not meant to be a place that people enjoy being in. I don’t [want to] see prisoners in this country sitting in cells watching the Sunday afternoon match on Sky Sports.
However, in a written response to a query by Philip Davies, the Member of Parliament for Shipley, a Minister of Justice, Jeremy Wright, revealed that thousands of prisoners in private prisons have access to Sky subscription television in their cells at taxpayers' expense.
Mr Davies characterised the situation as astounding. He said:
I find it absolutely astounding that any prisoner could have access to Sky TV in their cells. Many of my constituents would love to be able to afford Sky TV and can’t – so do without.
This criticism was echoed by Priti Patel MP, who said:
This is another example is of why the public have very little confidence in the criminal justice system when convicted prisoners should pay for their crimes rather than luxuriating with Sky television.
However, Juliet Lyon, a director of the Prison Reform Trust, pointed out:
Television was introduced to prisons...to try to reduce suicide and self harm levels in jails.
A spokesperson for G4S, the private sector provider, defended the policy. He said:
G4S believes prison needs to deliver punishment as well as the opportunity for rehabilitation and the reduction of re-offending. As such we aim to use a range of appropriate methods to encourage good behaviour. Additionally, it is not unreasonable to provide appropriate privileges when offenders have demonstrated sustained good behaviour, while poor behaviour leads to their removal. The provision of in-cell TVs is one of these privileges which is earned by prisoners engaging appropriately with the regime.
Philip Davies MP remains unconvinced by such arguments and, according to BBC News, he will be pushing the new Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, to make "prison a more austere place".
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