Prisons

Why Belgian Justice Officials Are Defending Prison Porn

Prison heads say it's humane and helps prisoners rehabilitate.

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Vanmalleghem/Instagram

At Belgium's Beveren Prison, a new system called PrisonCloud allows inmates to access the internet and rent movies, including adult films. "This system is a world-first and is a radical move," writes BBC reporter Siobhann Tighe. "So much so it has caught the eye of criminal justice experts across the world, keen to know whether the benefits will outweigh the risks." 

Each cell is equipped with a TV monitor, a keyboard, a mouse, and a headset. Using an individualized USB stick, username, and password, inmates can connect to the prison's server and access a range of websites—though some, including Facebook, are blocked—as well as see their court records, communicate with prison staff, request library books, order extra items such as food and cigarettes from the prison canteen, play computer games, and make telephone calls.  

From the BBC: 

Wim Adriaenssen, deputy director of the prison, has no regrets about the system despite objections from Belgian society which compared it to a hotel. He explained: "Inmates can go to a website where they can see what jobs are offered and they can say to themselves, 'When I go out, I can work in construction or whatever.'

"If they have a legal problem, they can get help from PrisonCloud and they can see the books they want to read. It's a connection with the outside world. PrisonCloud has more positive sides than downsides."

It's a program that allows inmates to download films, including adult films, that has stoked the most public outrage, despite the fact that inmates are charged for each download—around €3 euros per regular movie and €6 to €7 per porn film. Some feel that the very fact of allowing inmates these entertainment options is too much. Yet Beveren Prison officials aren't deterred, saying that it's both a humane position to allow prisoners' these options and helps keep them from acting out. 

In the U.K., officials have been considering providing some prisoners with iPads. Sir Martin Narey, who is pushing the idea, told the Telegraph last December: "When I joined the prison service in 1982 people were terrified of allowing prisoners to have FM radios. They worried about having telephones on wings." the point: New tech always freaks people out. But giving prisoners iPads would allow them to keep in touch with family members and spend time in their cells more constructively, says Narey. U.K. Justice Minister Michael Gove said his department was looking into whether such changes could improve outcomes in prisons and jails.

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