What property a prisoner is allowed to have in possession is subject to strict security limitations, as you would expect, but there have been a number of times during my sentence when the logic used to decide what is and is not allowed is completely beyond comprehension. However, such decisions can be challenged and sometimes common sense does win out in the end.
Back in 2004 I was at Swinfen Hall Young Offenders Institution. At the time prisoners there were allowed to have X Boxes but not Playstation 2s. As it happened I had a Playstation 2 in my property box in reception but, because of this ban, I couldn’t get it in possession. I queried the reasons for the ban and was told that it was due to Playstation 2s being able to play DVDs (which were also not allowed there at that time). I pointed out that X boxes can play DVDs too and they replied that this is true; but X boxes can only play them if you have an adapter and remote control whereas Playstations can play them as standard. I then asked how someone would get a DVD to play on a Playstation 2 anyway since DVDs could not be ordered. They said that there was always the possibility that they could be smuggled in as contraband so I asked, if this is possible, what would stop someone from smuggling in both a DVD and an X box adapter and remote, enabling the X Box to play the DVD too. They had no answer to that one. The sole reason for banning Playstation 2s had been their capability to play DVDs in the event of smuggling, and they had now realised that the X Boxes they allowed in possession could do exactly the same thing. They lifted the ban immediately and I became the first prisoner at Swinfen Hall to ever get a Playstation 2.
However, a couple of years later that Playstation stopped working and I decided to switch to an X Box. I bought a new one only to get transferred a few months later to HMP Frankland where I spent a few years before coming here to HMP Wakefield.
At both Frankland and Wakefield X Boxes have not been allowed and so my X box was sent to central storage at the Prison Service’s national storage centre in Branston. It seemed bizarre to me that, in exactly the opposite case to Swinfen Hall, X Boxes were banned but Playstation 2s were allowed but, at Frankland, no reason was ever given for this and it was hard to fight. However, in 2013 the Ministry of Justice created a national facilities list which included a list of those games consoles which present a high threat to security and those which present a low threat to security. Although Playstation 3s (and by implication Playstation 4s) and X Box 360s (and by implication X Box Ones) were all listed as a high security threat due to their WiFi capabilities, Both Playstation 2s and X Boxes (of the original, first generation variety) were listed as a low threat.
Others here had periodically tried to fight for X Box 360s, but this had always been turned down on security grounds and I could see this was a pointless fight. But when I told others that I intended to fight for my first generation X Box this led them to believe that my request would be turned down on similar grounds. The thing is, it very nearly was.
When I first asked if I could get my X Box here the answer was “No because they have WiFi”. I pointed out that that was the X Box 360 and X Box One, the original X Box doesn’t have WiFi at all. The answer then became “No because they are not on the national facilities list.” I showed them a copy of the’ national facilities list, identifying X Boxes as a permitted item due to presenting a low threat to security. The answer changed again to say “No because we received an directive, from the Ministry of Justice since the publication of that list stating that nothing beyond the Playstation 2 [in generation terms] should be allowed in possession.” I asked for the date of that email and discovered that it was 16 October 2014 so I showed them that the facilities list had been updated since then and X Boxes remained listed as permitted. They finally tried to argue that “We have been told not to allow any devices even where the WiFi has been disabled.” So I told them that this did not apply to X Boxes since they do not have WiFi at all and never have. They are therefore not “WiFi disabled”, they are “WiFi non-existent”.
At this point, they finally relented and have now confirmed that I can have my X Box in possession. Just as soon as I can get Branston storage to send it back to me…
It might take a while but hey, first with a Playstation 2 in Swinfen Hall.and first with an X Box in Wakefield. I think I’ll ask for a Wii next!