Prisoners in England and Wales will, from 30 September, no longer be allowed to play PlayStation games rated 18.

All prisons have been told to remove 18-rated games - not suitable for people aged under 18 - by that date.

It may surprise some readers that those detained at her Majesty's pleasure get to play games at all. Surely it's all taming wild birds, building ships with matchsticks and coming up with scams in order to get one over on officer McLaren? But no, old lags who demonstrate good behaviour - and those deemed at risk of suicide - can, apparently, get access to Sony consoles and games.

Indeed, in 2007 the Prison Service spent around £10,000 on PlayStations, Xboxes and games for young offender's institutes. And although this is certain to get the Daily Mail brigade up in arms, it's worth noting that such expenditure is a tiny drop in the ocean when compared to the cost of keeping so many people incarcerated. And really, it's hardly a huge scandal if locked-up kids are allowed a reward every now and then.

But there are, of course, better ways for the mainstream prison population to spend their hard time. And the Prison Reform Trust has told the BBC that PlayStation games shouldn't be used in prisons except as a reward or to help maintain order in cases of overcrowding. The organisation thinks that playing games just to fill the time is no good for either prisoner or public. Which is, you know, true. That's a waste of tax-payers' money.

Furthermore, PRT director Geoff Dobson told the Beeb that prisoners are these days spending increasing amounts of time in their cells doing, well, nothing.

"I don't think anyone would have a great problem with incorporating these [games] into a good behaviour programme, but we should not forget the usefulness of these games to prison officers and governors keeping order in overcrowded prisons," he said.

"But the bottom line is access to computer games is no substitute for purposeful activity like work or education classes, both of which are being cut back because the government is failing to tackle the underlying reasons for the rise in the prison population."

Well-behaved inmates will have to buy games consoles themselves - prisons are now banned from buying games or consoles with the tax dollar.

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