For inmates, tabletop role-playing games can be an important leasure activities.
« Above all, without fail, any gang ties, religious obligations or racial affiliations are superseded by the game. (...) Dungeons and Dragons is my rehabilitation that I can deal with to escape into my own reality to solve my own problems. » (1)
An inmate's justification of pencil-stabbing an inmate who was repeatedly interupting his game: « In the facility, we have three hours a day of pod time where we have access to the tables and we're not locked down. So we have very little time to game and this time has to be shared with phone calls, showers, etc. » (1)
Inmates can be ingenious to build DIY dice (2).
For the US penal system, TRPGs can be an activity that :
can lead to gang behavior, the « players looking at the Dungeon Masters, rather than to the prison's own carefully constructed hierarchy of authority.» (3)
« games like D & D can impede rehabilitation (...) could foster an inmate's obsession with escaping from the real life, correctional environment » (3)
can promote « competitive hostility, violence, and addictive escape behavior, which can compromise not only the inmate's rehabilitation and effects of positive programming » (3)
can be banned because « punishment is a fundamental aspect of imprisonment, and prisons may choose to punish inmates by preventing them from participating in some of their favorite recreations. » (3)
If escapism is a strategy of avoidance, in this case « distraction from the suffering one has caused » (1), boreness of the prison,... Frode Stenseng (4) found out it can lead to negative outcomes. He named this strategy self suppression escapism. [NB : Others comment it can also lead to positive outcomes, especialy in prison where boredom can lead to psychopathologies (5)]
If escapism is a framework for seeking new skills and improving personality, in this case
developing cooperative behavior, communicating, practicing simple math skills, using active imagination, playing the role of a character who experiment personal growth,... it can lead to positive outcomes. Stenseng named this strategy self-expansion escapism.
(1) Dragons in the Department of Corrections
(2) How Inmates Play Tabletop RPGs in Prisons Where Dice Are Contraband
(3) source: US Court of Appeals, 7th Circuit; with Google Scholar, search Case Law with "Singer v Raemisch". Context: in 2010, the court affirmed a judgement about the ban of D&D game and material in prison.
(4) U Oslo, Psychology.
(5) How to survive solitary confinement.
Other sources used : When Dragons Plays Dungeons + Zotero database > History of RPG > RPG bashing and defense > prison.