Prison officials backpedal on inmate Xbox program

Prison officials backpedal on inmate Xbox program »Play Video

SALEM, Ore. -- Just 24 hours after I reported that some Oregon inmates will soon be playing Xbox video games behind bars, state prison officials are admitting "miscommunications" within the Oregon Department of Corrections and the prisons it oversees.
 
Corrections officials are essentially pulling back the reins on the program even though the Xbox consoles and some video games have already been purchased for the Oregon State Correctional Institution in Salem.
 
Here's part of my dialogue Thursday with the Marie Garcia, the Oregon Corrections Department's legislative and government relations manager.
 
Anna Canzano:
"Did the spokesperson for the Oregon State Correctional Institution (OSCI) make a mistake in how she portrayed this program and how far along it really was?"
 
Marie Garcia:
"Unfortunately, there were some miscommunications within the department which we are working to fix. The leadership team will look at this proposed program and determine whether it's suitable for our inmate populations."
 
Canzano:
"So, communication problems meaning the director didn't know about this program until last week?"
 
Garcia:
"I would say with the Department of Corrections (DOC) being a parliamentary style organization they need to take things up the chain of command, and in this case it was not fully vetted up the chain of command. ..."
 
Canzano:
"Before the Xboxes were purchased."
 
Garcia:
"Yes."
 
Canzano:
"The check was cut!"
 
Garcia:
"Yes."
 
Standing in front of the corrections department's dome building in Salem, Garcia said, "I can tell you the Xbox program has not been implemented at this time. It is still under review. As a matter of fact, our leadership team has not yet reviewed it. And until it undergoes their vetting, it will not be implemented."
 
She also characterizes the list of approved games given to me Wednesday by an OSCI spokeswoman as a preliminary list that needs review by the agency's leadership team, along with the incentive program under which the Xbox game rentals will be structured.
 
On Wednesday, OSCI spokeswoman Tanya Bushard indicated to me "no first person human shooter games or games glorifying sexual violence have been approved."
 
But in reviewing the list, I pointed out to both Bushard and eventually Garcia how several of the games on the "preliminary" approved list are first person shooter games. They include games like Halo 3, Dishonored, Orange Box and Resident Evil 5.
 
Canzano:
"What's important to the leadership as they decide on which games would be available?"
 
Garcia:
"I would say they would more than likely not approve really violent games as well as anything that depicts sexual violent behavior. Those are things they wouldn't want around this inmate population."
 
I asked Garcia her response to the public, many of whom have expressed themselves on KATU's Facebook page, people who are angry about the idea of inmates playing video games behind bars.
 
She said, "As a department we build our system around inmate behavior and part of that is that the only inmates allowed to participate in any activities or incentive levels must have shown they can abide by the expectations of the department. They have to stay out of trouble, work and participate in programming, thus showing if they are a positive member of society, they're rewarded with certain privileges. For this program in particular, they have to have clean conduct for two years."
 
In closing, I asked Garcia if there was any chance this Xbox program wouldn't go forward. She said that's unknown until the leadership fully vets the program. She couldn't offer a guarantee one way or another.