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Do you know that about 2.3 million people are currently incarcerated in the United States of America? This data is generated from 102 federal correctional facilities, 1,719 state prison facilities, 942 juvenile prisons, 3,283 local incarceration facilities, and 79 county jails as well as special military incarceration facilities, immigration detention centers, and other incarceration centers in United States territories".

If this number is anything to go by, it means that a high population of our country is shut out from the rest of the world. What impact might this incarceration have on these people? We believe that although prisoners have been incarcerated for various crimes, they still deserve some recreation privileges. This blog article will discuss What Is The Good Impact of Prison Recreational Activities for inmates?

Prisoners did not have any form of recreation up until 1870. The first-ever National Prison Association (NPA) congress was held in 1870 and this congress reached a resolution to manage prisons as a rehabilitation centers. Before the 1870 NPA congress, prisons served as a punishment center for those found guilty of crimes. After the NPA congress, some prisons introduced leisure time allowing prisoners to enjoy some yard time activities on special national holidays.

On some other special occasions, the inmates can enjoy other recreational activities such as music, stage plays, and seminars. Eventually, the yard time activities evolved into a full-blown recreational program for the inmates.

You may be wondering if prisoner recreational activities are still relevant at prisons during the COVID-19 coronavirus. Given the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 coronavirus, recreational and other activities for prisoners may be limited, suspended, or altered. Some U.S. prisons are still allowing inmates to participate in recreational activities where split recreational activities are done.

Rather than the entire inmate population simultaneously attending recreational activities, the prisoners are split into different groups by blocks and tiers to participate in recreational activities. This may help to reduce the chance of any transmission or spread of the coronavirus for prisoners.

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Prisoners can engage in lots of extracurricular activities that are majorly grouped into three categories. The categories include activity-focused recreation, reintegration programs, and reformative programs. These activities may be re-structured by prisons for prisoners to maintain social distancing. It may be difficult for inmates to conduct social distancing since they are housed in close quarters. Inmates who are deemed vulnerable or with compromised immune systems may need to be quarantined in the infirmary and others may not be able to participate in some or any recreational activities.

Activity- Focused Programs

The activity- focused extracurricular activity could be either active recreation or passive recreation. Active recreation entails that inmates play a part in an extracurricular activity that involves a cognitive or physical effort to a large extent. Such extracurricular activities in prisons include sports, playing an instrument, acting, and board games.

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However, passive recreation is an activity that enables or allows the prisoner to consume entertaining programs driven by other persons e.g. watching movies, TV programs or sports activity, attending theatre events, reading, listening to music, and playing video games.

Reformative Activities

Another form of extracurricular activities obtainable in prisons today is the reformative activities, which are designed to provide knowledge and information such as lectures on substance abuse or soft skills-acquisition programs.

Reintegrative Activities

The reintegrative programs are designed to help prepare prisoners for life after incarceration such as procedures in obtaining housing, health services, and counseling.

Technological Recreation

Since the arrival of the Apple iPad, custom-made tablets are being made available to thousands of prison inmates in the United States. In 2018 alone, about 19 states have provided prisoners with these tablets in a bid to engage them positively and mitigate violence while providing online platforms for education and job training. Inmates may be able to visit their prison website to educate themselves about COVID-19 measures at their correctional facility.

Nine states just recently signed minutes of use (MOU’s) documents with telecommunication giants to make more tablets available to inmates for free. These tablets will enable inmates to make video calls, send emails, and access educational/legal materials online. However, some schools of thought believe that these partnerships are skewed to enrich telecoms companies and also help prison administration cut administrative costs by spending less on law libraries and other on-site learning centers

JPay, a correctional services company, allows prisoners and their loved ones to communicate with each other. The loved ones of inmates can send money and both parties can send and receive email, pictures, videograms, and electronic greeting cards. However, JPay may not be available in all states.


1. Recreational activities in prison have proven to boost the self-esteem of inmates, which is a psychological benefit. Active participation in a sporting activity can be all a male prisoner needs to feel masculine. Therefore, recreation helps inmates develop and sustain positive self-esteem.


 2. An amazing benefit of these extracurricular activities is that it occupies the prisoners’ time, positively. A prisoner will always devise means to cure his boredom. So, by providing them with constructive recreational activities, they can be productive with that time, or else, there is the risk of having other negative things occupy their minds. Remember what they say about an idle mind?


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3. It helps to alleviate the rate of recidivism. When you put all the benefits of recreation into consideration, they collectively influence a prisoner's effective release. This will ultimately result in good recreation skills, a better relationship with family, more outlets for letting out negative energy and emotions, and improved leadership skills.


4Extracurricular activities help to ensure that inmates maintain good health. Physical exercise and gym sessions help the prisoners to achieve a healthy body and state of mind in a seemingly unhealthy environment. The benefits of these activities include providing alternatives to addiction, improved health conditions for older prisoners, and a great body structure for the guys.


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5. Prisoners acquire new skill sets from extracurricular activities. This is a way to ensure that prisoners attain stability and work on becoming rehabilitated. These are not just vocational skills, but soft skills like collaboration, loyalty, service, and interpersonal skills. In addition to these, inmates pick up vocational skills that they can leverage to employ or self-employ themselves when they leave prison.

6. On the other hand, extracurricular activities allow prison officers to study and gain information about the prison environment. This means that officers can observe the inmates during the activities and draw logical inferences in regards to brotherhood, leadership, and loyalty within the inmates' rank.

7. Finally, recreation helps inmates to release "pent-up" feelings enabling them to handle pressure and frustrations more positively and productively. Active participation in recreational activities in prisons is the perfect platform for prisoners to let off steam and effectively handle the pressures that come with incarceration.


The importance of recreational activities in prison cannot be over-emphasized regardless of what the debatable downsides might be. Recreational activities may be the best way to ensure that prisoners don't get into trouble. This means that a prisoner who is actively participating in recreational activities like playing basketball, learning a vocation, or a musical instrument is less likely to get into trouble with prison wardens, correctional officers, or fellow prisoners and life during or post-incarceration can be a lot easier and promising.

The coronavirus has changed the way that prisons operate and prisoners participate in recreational activities. Some measures taken to protect prisoners include social distancing and quarantining prisoners. These measures may be difficult as prisoners live in close quarters.

Prisoners and their loved ones should educate themselves and prepare to adjust to new measures that are implemented on a short or long-term basis due to the coronavirus and by visiting jail and prison websites for COVID-19 facility updates pertaining to as it relates to inmates and staff. It is a good idea for you to communicate with your incarcerated loved ones regarding the impact of not only recreational activities but how they are doing regarding implemented COVID-19 measures that are supposed to keep them safe.

For more information about prisoner rehabilitation and the criminal justice system, click on the link below: 

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Prisoner Rehabilitation: Success Stories And Failures (Incarceration Issues: Punishment, Reform) Kindle Edition by Joan Esherick