Mich. prison allows inmates to play Xbox

Inmates with permission to use them will be allowed to play 30 minutes at a time and only sports games will be allowed

By Bob Johnson
The Saginaw News

TITTABAWASSEE TWP., Mich. — Some state prisoners will get access to Xbox gaming systems at the Saginaw Correctional Facility in Freeland.

The prison is allowing inmates in the veteran's unit limited use of Xbox consoles, according to Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Chris Gautz.

"It provides another release while they are here," Gautz said. "It's another option that's available to a group that follows the rules, and it is a good motivator, too, because it is something that can be taken away."

The used gaming systems are donated by a third party. They will not have internet access.

"There is no tax money being used," Gautz said.

Inmates with permission to use them will be allowed to play 30 minutes at a time and only sports games will be allowed, Gautz said.

"It's not every prisoner," Gautz said. "Very select group."

Earlier this week, MDOC made news when it was reported that prison officials provided a prisoner with an Xbox in a deal for him to provide the location of his wife's remains, who he killed in 2010.

The prisoner, Doug Stewart, a U.S. military veteran, is housed in the Freeland unit.

Gautz said Stewart was not given special treatment, as officials were already implementing a few programs for prisoners in the veteran's unit, including the Xbox systems.

"We are looking at what other states are doing," Gautz said.

MDOC is the 14th state to create a veteran's unit in a prison.

"They have a lot of common issues that they are dealing with," Gautz said.

Michigan houses 38,000 prisoners, with 2,700 of them being veterans. Of those prisoners, 1,450 of those are in the Freeland prison with 275 of those housed in the veteran's unit.

Among other programs, prisoners inside the veteran's unit train dogs and give them to veterans outside the prison who suffer from PTSD and other issues.

Gautz said the more activities prisoners have means less time they have to think about harming staff and other inmates.

The prison has a good tie-in with the Saginaw Aleda E. Lutz V.A. Hospital because of its proximity, he said.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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