The Scottish Prison Service is ordering 1,600 19 inch flat screen televisions for use across the service. The televisions are for inmates and are being purchased in order to meet energy efficiency targets.
The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) said the television sets would not cost the taxpayer any money as prisoners were charged for television access. Prisoners pay £1 a week for their in-cell terrestrial and satellite televisions but, according to the SPS, they are not a right and can be taken away at the prison governor's discretion. Remand prisoners do not pay the fee. PlayStation (PS2 or other console) is provided free of charge in prisons.
A TV licence costs £145.50 a year and a Sky starter pack is £19.50 a month. Therefore for the average home, the basic annual cost of satellite television is £379.50. That excludes the cost of the television itself.
Prisons will be able to negotiate prices for televisions and satellite receivers but is £1 a week a fair price? The top websites which provide bedside televisions do not give prices online but even a standard Freeview TV will cost far more than £1 a week.
Our prisons have rooms with extra large television screens for inmates' use. The taxpayer pays for those. Should we also be subsidising personal televisions? What saving will low energy televisions make to the prison estate energy costs? We really need some detail and not just to be told that there will be no cost to taxpayers.
The SPS said televisions had been a 'feature' of prisons since 1999 when Labour began it's eight-year term at Holyrood yet Richard Baker, Labour's justice spokesman, is jumping up and down with indignation at the purchase of these new televisions. He should have checked out the history of personal televisions in prisons before protesting.