Ontario inmates are about to be limited to watching basic cable during their recreational hours, after the province decided to pull the plug on enhanced cable TV packages for more than 6,000 prisoners.

Corrections Minister Jim Bradley said on Tuesday that reducing the cable packages available in Ontario institutions will save nearly $75,000 a year, in a time when every penny marked for spending is being pinched.

"It's a matter of thousands of dollars, not millions. But every dollar we save counts," Bradley told CTV Toronto's Paul Bliss on Tuesday.

For years, inmates have enjoyed specialty channels and some jails have even offered high definition programs. While television is a calming factor in prisons, the minister said VIP packages are too much.

"It is a positive recreation for them and keeps them somewhat in contact with the outside world but I think the public would say the basic service is good enough," said Bradley.

Ontario faces a $16.7 billion deficit for the year ending March 31 and an election on Oct. 6.

Garfield Dunlop, a PC correctional services critic, said the prisoners "don't need to have high definition TV's and all kind of extra channels that the average person can't afford."

The change will affect some 6,000 inmates at 20 different correctional facilities across the province, where the longest sentence is just under two years. The premium cable packages have been available at some of these facilities for over 10 years.

The Conservatives said the Liberal government only pulled the plug on the premium cable packages after they requested a freedom of information search demanding the invoices.

At Queen's Park, the NDP said that television is a lousy babysitter at home and in prison and that jails should offer inmates programs that will make sure they won't become repeat offenders.

With files from CTV Toronto's Paul Bliss