Prison Bingo Payouts Spark Outrage

Ti’s no secret that bingo is one of the most popular games in the United Kingdom. Just about every town, city and hamlet has its own High Street bingo hall where community members socialize and play games. In addition to brick and mortar bingo halls there are about 400 internet bingo sites competing for players in the UK. It should come as no surprise that bingo is also popular behind bars. In early November prison officials criticized a plan to use £5,000 to fund bingo prizes for prisoners.


The cash had been earmarked for quizzes and bingo at Whatton Jail, near Bingham, Notts. The class C facility houses male sex offenders. While the money is just a small portion of the prison’s jail’s £7.5 million yearly budget Peter Chapple of the Prison Officers’ Association said the money should be used for education programs. Chapple told reporters “We would always support any activity which was to help rehabilitate offenders but in the current climate of cost-cutting we don’t believe this is a good use of public money. A better use of £5,000 a year would be something which either teaches, or trains other prisoners to teach prisoners to read. That kind of money would train 66 prisoners to teach others to read.” A Prison Service spokesman stated “Staff at the prison came up with the idea of running some sessions of bingo and other activities as part of the prisoners’ wider rehabilitation.”


At another UK prison payouts to prisoners have sparked outrage. Official figures revealed that £4,391 was paid out to prisoners at Wakefield jail. The jail houses some notorious criminals such as child murderer Ian Huntley and Milly Dowler killer Levi Bellfield. Officials said the prizes were “to encourage participation in regime activities” and were no more than £5. Since 2009 the prison has paid out £3,344 in taxpayer money to prisoners participating in the games. The figures were released by the Ministry of Justice following a Freedom of Information inquiry by the Daily Mirror.


Matthew Sinclair, head of the TaxPayers’ ­Alliance blasted the program and stated “Prison is about taking responsibility for your actions, not gambling on the bingo. Prison should involve rehabilitation but not cash prizes.” In a statement the Ministry of Justice said “Some prisons run competitions, sports events, quizzes and games including bingo, normally at Christmas.” Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright told reporters “I want the public to have confidence in the prison system. That is why I am currently reviewing a range of prisoner activities and privileges to ensure there are clear operational reasons for them. We will be asking some tough questions about whether these sorts of prizes are actually appropriate for prisoners.”