Nerds behind prison bars take a big hit. No more fantasy lives for them when a U.S. court of appeal has upheld a ruling that bans Dungeons and Dragons, a popular role-playing game, from a Wisconsin prison.
Kevin Singer, an inmate in a Wisconsin’s Waupun Correctional Institution, had been a fan of the fantasy game since childhood.
Since he was incarcerated in 2002, he had amassed a significant collection of books and paraphernalia centred around the game. But in 2004, an anonymous note alerted prison officials to the sub-culture that can form between avid players.
“The letter expressed concern that Singer and three other inmates were forming a D&D gang and were trying to recruit others to join by passing around their D&D publications and touting the ‘rush’ they got from playing the game,” the ruling reads.
Shortly thereafter, prison officials raided his cell and confiscated everything related to the game they could find, including 21 books, 14 magazines and a 96-page handwritten manuscript that Singer produced himself.
All inmates were henceforth “prohibited … from engaging in all types of fantasy games.” When Singer protested by filing a complaint through the prison complaint system, it was dismissed.
But Singer persisted, filing a civil rights complaint in federal court, alleging his rights to free speech and due process had been violated.
While Singer produced evidence from D&D experts as well as several inmates arguing that no gang activity was taking place, nor had D&D ever led to gang activity in the past, prison officials countered with arguments that co-operative games can mimic the organizational structure of gangs, and prison security is paramount.
“The question is not whether D&D has led to gang behaviour in the past; the prison official concede that it has not,” the judge wrote. “The question is whether the prison officials are rational in their belief that, if left unchecked, D&D could lead to gang behaviour among inmates and undermine prison security in the future.”
As such, the ban was upheld in a Jan. 25 ruling. Other games — including Risk, Stratego, Chess and Checkers — remain on the prison’s allowed list of games.
Singer is serving a life sentence for stabbing his sister’s boyfriend. Being in prison sucks and now for these guys I guess it will suck a bit more. They will have to spend their time bulking up in the gym.