Karaoke game machines installed in jails for therapy
Written by: Lee Hyo-jin
In response to rising public criticism on karaoke and game machines being installed in prisons for inmates, a correctional facility in Jeonju said Friday that they were used for therapy not entertainment.
On Wednesday, the Jeonju Correctional Institution in North Jeolla Province announced that it had installed three karaoke machines and two "whack a mole" game machines in the prison.
The correctional facility explained that they will help inmates to relieve stress as other rehabilitation programs such as religious activities had been suspended due to the prolonged COVD-19 pandemic.
The prisoners are allowed to use the karaoke machine free of charge if they sign up in advance. Those sentenced to death or who are suffering from a psychiatric problem will be given more opportunity to use them. The machines cost approximately 50 million won ($44,000) to install.
Although the prison explained they were for rehabilitation purposes, the decision was met by a public backlash with people saying the prison was "being too generous" to the prisoners.
A public petition on the Cheong Wa Dae website was posted Thursday urging for the therapy room to be immediately shut down.
"A correctional facility should be a harsh environment for the incarcerated, a place they never want to return to. But they have decided to provide entertainment programs in addition to three meals a day and a warm bed to sleep in," wrote the petitioner claiming to be an office worker in Seoul.
The writer added that the money used for the therapy room should have instead been spent on helping victims of crime or the underprivileged as "criminals deserve to be repressed."
"Imprisonment ought to be a painful period for criminals to repent on their behavior, not a time to sing and dance. Imagine how the victims and their families would feel about this," said the office worker in his 40s surnamed Lee.
Another citizen sharing similar views said, "So my tax has been used to provide recreation rooms for prisoners? Why don't they even give out free drinks in the karaoke?"
Jeonju Prison clarified Thursday that the karaoke machines are only used on a limited basis for therapeutic purposes for long term or psychologically unstable inmates, not as entertainment.
However, as criticism continued even after the clarification, the authorities are reportedly considering shutting down the therapy room, but failed to give any exact date.
"Many people seem to have misperceived our intentions with the therapy room. We will discuss closing it with the related authorities, taking into account the negative public opinion," said an official at the correctional facility.