Prisoners to be given Nintendo DS for “brain training”


By Rory Reynolds

PRISONERS in Scotland are to be given Nintendo DS consoles to improve their reading and maths skills.

A report by the Scottish government concluded that it would be “motivational” for cons to play “brain training” games.

The Scottish Prison Service could fork out up to £149 per console and £20 per game for the trial scheme, which could see the practice rolled out across Scotland.

However critics have branded the scheme a “gimmick”, adding that many families can’t afford a games console for their own kids.

The study, Learning in Custody: Report of the Offender Learning in Custody Workstream, suggested the success of primary school pupils catching up with brain training games could be replicated in prison.It said: “Initial findings suggest it is both motivational and enables less confident learners to close the gap on others.

Prison library

“Children who were behind in numeracy using traditional methods of teaching were able to catch up with their peers within a very short space of time using brain training on a Nintendo DS.

“Offenders are allowed to use Playstations for games, so it seems reasonable, in principle, that other digital equipment (such as the Nintendo DS) to become available through the prison library for numeracy and literacy learning.

“We would recommend this is done on a trial basis in a small number of prison libraries and with the involvement of literacy providers.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Prison Service said that the use of games consoles could cut reoffending levels.

He said: “We are anxious to improve the life skills of prisoners and sharpen their educations skills.


“One of the key factors in reducing reoffending is improving employability.

“To get a job you have to focus on literacy and numeracy, which these Nintendo DS consoles will do.”

However, Matthew Eliot, chief executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said that buying game consoles for convicts is a waste of public money.

He said: “It is a completely ridiculous idea. We are now at a time when most taxpayers are struggling and can’t afford to pay for Nintendos for their own children.

“Why should prisoners get them?”


Richard Baker, Scottish Labour’s justice spokesman, added: “These video games will not be of much use to the many prisoners that cannot read and it smacks of gimmickry rather than a dedicated approach to tackling literacy and numeracy problems.

“The most important thing that prisoners need is proper education and work. Leaving convicts to sit in a cell with a video game will not cut reoffending and will not improve the chances of prisoners that cannot read a newspaper.

“Kenny MacAskill should be working to make prison work. Instead he opts for games and gimmicks.”

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  1. Well, apart from the choice of Nintendo, I think this is a very promising idea. One neglected but very important aspect is that intensive working memory training can improve our ability to overcome impulses – an excellent way to help avoid remission.

    The only study showing that brain training can lead to general mental improvement used intensive working memory training of thirty minutes per day, five days per week. And it works… (More info at proven brain training)

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