A pilot program allowing inmates to use PlayStations at Nevada State Prison has come to an abrupt end after inmates were caught using them to play pornographic movies -- and a group of prisoners is suing to get them back.
Prison spokesman Steve Suwe said the pornography that was among the problems prison officials found with the program. He said inmates were allowed to buy the PlayStation II units along with games rated "E" for everybody. No violent games or those with sexual situations - nothing above PG-13 - were permitted.
"The problem is the PlayStation II can play DVDs," Suwe said.
And it apparently wasn't too difficult for inmates to get unauthorized movie DVDs - including porn - smuggled into Nevada State Prison, effectively turning the PlayStation units into XXX-Boxes.
Director of Corrections Greg Cox said the problem wasn't just porn -- violent game disks were also being smuggled in, as well.
Suwe said there were also other unforeseen problems with the game computers including that prison officials were unable to stop the inmates from trading game disks and unauthorized materials to other inmates, loaning or renting the units, both which are violations of prison rules.
A year ago, then-Director of Corrections Howard Skolnik decided inmates who had not violated the rules could keep their PlayStations, although he cut off further purchases of the computer game devices.
When Cox reviewed the situation in February, he decided the program needed to stop altogether. Inmates were notified that the game units, games, computer chips and controllers would be confiscated.
"There were many instances of inmates receiving unauthorized DVDs including pornography, unapproved movies and games," said an affidavit in the case by Associate Warden Travis Roberts.
Cox said while there is not ongoing investigation against any of NSP's officers, he believes "staff were compromised there with bringing in videos."
He added that if his investigators find evidence against specific staff members, action will be taken.
"It wasn't a good idea for them ever to have been given to inmates," he said.
Suwe said inmates were told they could send the items home, donate them to charity or have prison officials dispose of them.
That wasn't good enough for some of the inmates. As of this week, 18 inmates - primarily those claiming not to have committed any violation of the rules - had sued in Carson City's small-claims court.
They accuse the prison, Warden Greg Smith and Cox of "wrongful confiscation of authorized, approved personal property."
Those inmates are asking the court to require the prison to reimburse them for the cost of the computer game systems, game disks and accessories, saying they can't return the PlayStations to the prison canteen for credit or a refund and, so, are out the money they spent.
Altogether, 88 inmates bought the units.
"I want full reimbursement for what I paid through the canteen, a total of $601.16," wrote inmate Albert Dawson in his claim petition.
Deputy Attorney General Stephen Quinn has filed motions seeking summary judgment to dismiss the claims.