The truth about televisions in prisons

You may have seen some reporting about the cost of replacing damaged televisions in Queensland prisons recently, with allegations that taxpayers foot the bill for sets damaged by prisoners.

We thought you might to like to know the truth.

Taxpayers do not subsidise the provision of televisions to prisoners in Queensland prisons. In fact the televisions, which are paid for by the prisoners, subsidise other amenities in prisons which would otherwise come out of the public purse.

Prisoners are charged $2 per week for the ability to view a television. That means if there are two prisoners in a cell, they pay $4 a week to have the TV.

This generates approximately $1.2m annually in rental returns, paid for by prisoners.

This far outstrips replacement costs – in 2017-2018 a total of $ 711,000 was used to purchase televisions, including the replacement of 1,560 units for a range of reasons, not all of which relate to malicious damage. Televisions need to be replaced for a number of reasons. Each television costs just under $200 to purchase.

If a prisoner does damage a TV, they can be required to pay for its replacement, and may be banned from having access to a television.

That means the television rental, even after covering the purchase costs for new televisions, provided nearly half a million dollars, which could be used to purchase other amenities for prisons, such as sporting goods and equipment. Without the television rental returns, these costs would be subsidised by taxpayers.

“But why give prisoners TVs at all?” I hear you ask.

Put simply, TVs make prisons a safer place – for our officers and for prisoners, by reducing levels of violence and lessening the sense of isolation that can lead to prisoners hurting themselves – or others.

TVs also allow prisoners to stay connected to the wider community, which increases their chances of resettling successfully once they are released.

Prisoners lose their liberty, but access to information is a human right, and televisions can also be used as an incentive for cooperation and good behaviour in a prison environment.

So all in all, access to television is a positive for prisoners, for our officers, and for the taxpayer, as the rental helps offset other prison costs to the tune of nearly half a million dollars a year. They can also help prisoners be less likely to reoffend on release back into the community, which is a win for all of us.