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Gambling behind bars: does prison provide ideal conditions?

Val_rie Beauregard, Serge Brochu


While studies exist on the gambling habits of the correctional population prior to incarceration, little information exists on gambling habits during imprisonment. This article aims to describe gambling practices in Quebec prisons. The impact of prison life on these activities and their meaning will be analyzed, relying on semi-structured interviews with 51 men currently detained in three federal penitentiaries in Quebec. Contrary to our expectations, the regulations prohibiting gambling in Correctional Service of Canada institutions do not present a central obstacle to this practice. In fact, participation in gambling is limited more by elements connected to the detention institution and the sentence. The availability of certain games, more particularly card games such as poker, as well as the pleasure resulting from those games seem considerably limited in comparison with group bets like sports pools.

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