Kent Philpott is the manager of the San Quentin Giants, a team of inmates from one of the nation’s most widely known maximum-security prisons. While many penitentiaries have organized baseball teams, San Quentin’s is the oldest and one of the only ones that competes against outside ball clubs, says the Christian Science Monitor. To prison officials, organized sports helps keep inmates occupied and perhaps teaches lessons on getting along with others. In this age of punitive attitudes about crime, no one is calling it rehabilitation.
Some conservatives and victims’ rights groups think that any kind of recreation for inmates – especially America’s pastime – isn’t appropriate for prisoners, especially those who committed a violent crime. It helps authorities battle one of the biggest worries behind bars – idleness. “It keeps tensions down, increasing the safety and security of everyone, including employees,” says Marie Griffin, a criminologist at Arizona State University. Philpott, a volunteer, sees bigger benefits. “These guys learn to deal with losing, they learn to cooperate, build people up, and become team players,” he says.