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Wisconsin inmate loses battle to play Dungeons and Dragons in jail
January 26, 2010 8:33 AM   Subscribe

Wisconsin inmate loses battle to play Dungeons and Dragons in jail. News article and 7th Circuit Court of Appeals opinion.
posted by seliopou (182 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
They know they're not actually learning how to cast Magic Missle, right?


Wait, are they?
posted by The Whelk at 8:37 AM on January 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I can't really take sides on this until I know which edition he was playing.
posted by Mister_A at 8:38 AM on January 26, 2010 [50 favorites]


Madison is the absolute last place I would have expected this verdict, but also the absolute first place I would have expected this to go to court.
posted by AugieAugustus at 8:40 AM on January 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


I blame Tom Hanks.
posted by rtimmel at 8:41 AM on January 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


a policy was initiated in 2004 to eradicate all Dungeons and Dragons game materials among concerns that playing it promotes gang-related activity

Yes I'm sure even the neo-Nazis quake in their boots when they cross the DnD gang. They're all tweaked out on prison Mountain Dew.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 8:42 AM on January 26, 2010 [14 favorites]


The question is whether the prison officials are rational in their belief that, if left unchecked, D&D could lead to gang behavior among inmates and undermine prison security in the future.

In-fucking-credible. Personally, I don't really have a dog in this fight about prisoners playing D&D--other than it just seems phenomenally dumb and likely counter productive to reducing prison violence--but now, amazingly, there is a Circuit precedent for supporting a rational link between D&D and gangs.

Fellow nerds, those D&D games you used to have after school in the library? That's a gang meeting on school property. Try explaining what your chaotic neutral paladin means to some dumb assistant principal. Jeez. Suspensions, expulsions, counseling, etc.

Will America's war on nerds never end?
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:44 AM on January 26, 2010


a policy was initiated in 2004 to eradicate all Dungeons and Dragons game materials among concerns that playing it promotes gang-related activity.

SVIRFNEBLIN REPRESENT
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:44 AM on January 26, 2010 [18 favorites]


Love how they say in the opinion that the DM gives instructions to the other players, so its like a gang.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:44 AM on January 26, 2010


Chaotic neutral paladin?!?! Ach, my valve!
posted by Mister_A at 8:45 AM on January 26, 2010 [8 favorites]


From the opinion: This all changed on or about November 14, 2004, when Waupun’s long-serving Disruptive Group Coordinator, Captain Bruce Muraski, received an anonymous letter from an inmate. 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. Muraski, Waupun’s expert on gang activity, decided to heed the letter’s advice and “check into this gang before it gets out of hand.”
posted by ColdChef at 8:46 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


The question is whether the prison officials are rational...

I could have answered this before I even heard about this ridiculous story.
posted by DU at 8:47 AM on January 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Love how they say in the opinion that the DM gives instructions to the other players, so its like a gang.

Not that I support this ruling, but I can see some basis in that. When you're locked up, any outlet of escape such as an engrossing RPG can take a much larger space in your mind than it might if you were on the outside. An inmate that was too involved in the game and had a disagreement with the dungeon master might be more willing to use violence. Of course, people get shanked for card games in the joint all the time so that argument may be null, practically speaking, but the logic is at least there.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:48 AM on January 26, 2010


Feh. If he were really a D&D player he would have declared himself a cleric of St. Cuthbert and made it a freedom of religion issue.

Also, I'm not going try to make the argument that a convicted murderer should have the right to do whatever he wants in prison, but taking his games away from him? Oooh. That'll show him.
posted by logicpunk at 8:49 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't know why this guy is complaining. He can play other games:
However, we are not convinced that the ban is as un- yieldingly categorical as Singer makes it out to be. He argues that the ban precludes him from playing D&D and therefore he has no alternative means to play D&D. That may be true, but, as the district court pointed out in discounting this circular argument, Singer still has access to other allowable games, reading material, and leisure activities. See Farmer v. Dormire, No. 03-4180-CV-C-NKL, 2005 WL 2372146, at *4 (W.D. Mo. Sept. 27, 2005) (observing that strategy games like Risk, Stratego, chess, and checkers remained available to prisoners in the wake of a similar ban).
posted by ColdChef at 8:49 AM on January 26, 2010


A 96 page game scenario? He's serious, I'll give him that.

The decision is not really in depth. It largely affirms the lower court's summary judgement that the inmates and their expert witnesses failed to appropriately raise sufficient material evidence against the prison policy. The ridiculous aspect is apparently a belief that a gamemaster is acting somewhat like a gang boss and directing his fellow players' real-life activities.
posted by dhartung at 8:49 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


This calls for Bigby's Insulting Hand.
posted by jquinby at 8:49 AM on January 26, 2010 [11 favorites]


I can totally see how if I ever end up behind bars a weekly roleplaying session could do wonders for my personal happiness. Losing that would be heartbreaking.
posted by Kattullus at 8:51 AM on January 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


I'm not sure whether to send him Pandemic or Escape from Colditz.
posted by biffa at 8:51 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


observing that strategy games like Risk, Stratego, chess, and checkers remained available to prisoners in the wake of a similar ban

All of those games have very clear cut rules with identical outcomes each time they are played. DND and other RPG allow for all sorts of permutations and outcomes, which is why you need a marshal like the DM to keep order.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:51 AM on January 26, 2010


Sigh. So - something that encourages use of imagination, reading and rudementary math skills has been banned...

Bread and circuses, that's all that's allowed folks, move along.
posted by jkaczor at 8:53 AM on January 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


But anyway, incarceration is as much about thought control as it is physical control. Any little area where groups of inmates are living in an alternate reality to the warden's boot is generally crushed, wizards or otherwise.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:53 AM on January 26, 2010


I'm betting Dungeon adventures would really not transport them out of their confinement.
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 8:54 AM on January 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think we've already established that D&D leads to killing your friends with a hammer. So this is about right.
posted by haveanicesummer at 8:55 AM on January 26, 2010


I could understand this if they were LARPing...

> Try explaining what your chaotic neutral paladin means to some dumb assistant principal.

Can you explain it to me?

Chaotic Neutral Paladin? The frak?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:56 AM on January 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


Something something saving throw; something something critical hit.
posted by Bonzai at 8:57 AM on January 26, 2010


Wait......... D&D players are potential gang members, but Risk players are gentle and agreeable?

Riiiiiight.....
posted by y6y6y6 at 8:57 AM on January 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Failed saving throw for due process.
posted by chinston at 8:57 AM on January 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


(observing that strategy games like Risk, Stratego, chess, and checkers remained available to prisoners in the wake of a similar ban).

*C.O. approaches, peers at chess board and Risk dice, shakes head, walks away*

*Inmate pauses, then points to the queen*

"Right. Dragon breathes fire. Save vs. breath weapon, biatches."

Word to Muraski: the pen and paper are optional, dude.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:59 AM on January 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


I like the bald assertion that D&D has been associated with "addiction to fantasy escapism" and "gambling." It's like they were all frozen in 1982.
posted by Scattercat at 9:01 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Try explaining what your chaotic neutral paladin means to some dumb assistant principal.

Can you explain it to me?


Beats me, D&D nerds. I played Paranoia (oh, so delicious), Warhammer 40K and Blood Bowl. D&D always struck me as too boring (bad DMs?).
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:04 AM on January 26, 2010


Frak me. Can you imagine wanting to play Paranoia in prison? Suddenly grim.

And "escapism". Yeah. God forbid a prisoner isn't thinking about incarceration 24/7.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:06 AM on January 26, 2010


Chaotic Neutral Paladin? The frak?

The Paladin class exists only to be subverted. All righteous pallies are alike, but every fallen templar is corrupted in his own way. Etc.
posted by cortex at 9:09 AM on January 26, 2010 [17 favorites]


This d20 I got here was first purchased by your great-granddaddy. It was bought during the seventies in a little gaming store in Knoxville, Tennessee. It was bought by inmate Ernie Coolidge the day he went to Sam Hill. It was your great granddaddy's prison d20, made by the first company to ever make polyhedral dice. You see, up until then, people just used d6s.

Your great-granddaddy rolled that d20 every day he was inside. Then when he had done his campaign, he went home to your great-grandmother, took the d20 out and put it in an ol' coffee can. And in that can it stayed 'til your grandfather Dane Coolidge was imprisoned for stealing stuff. This time they called it Petty Larceny. Your great-granddaddy gave it to your granddad for good luck.

Unfortunately, Dane's luck wasn't as good as his old man's. Your granddad rolled three ones in a row. Your granddad was facing death and he knew it. None of those boys had any illusions about saving their characters in Tomb of Horrors. So three days before they met the Lich, your 22-year old grandfather asked an inmate named Winocki, a man he had never met before in his life, him having been recruited into their D&D gang that day, to deliver to his infant son, who he had never seen in the flesh, his d20. Three days later, your grandfather's dwarven cleric was dead.

But Winocki kept his word. After the campaign was over, he paid a visit to your grandmother, delivering to your infant father, his Dad's d20. This d20. This d20 was in your Daddy's hand when he was critically failed a saving throw versus spell resistance. He was Held and put in a dungeon. Now he knew if the wandering monsters ever saw the d20 it'd be confiscated, as reality and the game were confusing to him. The way your Daddy looked at it, that d20 was your birthright. And he'd be damned if any mobs were gonna put their ichorous, black hands on his boy's birthright. So he hid it in the one place he knew he could hide somethin'. His ass. Five long years, he carried this d20 up his ass. Then when his HP dropped beneath -10, he gave me the d20. I hid with uncomfortable hunk of plastic up my ass for two years. Then, after seven years, I was sent home to my family.

And now, little man, I give this d20 to you.
posted by Sparx at 9:14 AM on January 26, 2010 [57 favorites]


It's an easy fix: Have a guard be the DM (so it's no longer a gang) and restrict the players to Neutral or Good, and Chaotic is forbidden outright.

That said, I really want to see this hit the supreme court, especially if we get to hear Sotomeyor talk about D&D. Good source for Daily Show sound-bytes, and if we get lucky, Fox might have a special on the dangers of having a nerd in the Judicial branch.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:15 AM on January 26, 2010


The Paladin class exists only to be subverted.

No, it exists to be played to the frakin' hilt so you can piss off all the other players with your god-given righteousness. If my sheet says "Paladin" then bring the spiral-slicer because I am going to HAM IT UP.
posted by GuyZero at 9:15 AM on January 26, 2010 [11 favorites]


While we're at it, let's ban Carcassonne from congresspeople. We don't want them to be practicing gerrymandering!
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:17 AM on January 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm torn between my annoyance at the moronic idea that D&D = gang activity, and my distaste for siding with a convicted murderer.

Prison isn't supposed to be fun. That's why they call it prison.
posted by caution live frogs at 9:17 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've only ever played a Paladin in Shadowrun. Street Paladin that is. Dicoat broadsword. Lance mounted on a motorcycle. Full plate. All bioware. Definitely Lawful Good.
posted by haveanicesummer at 9:19 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Chaotic Neutral Paladin?

The frak.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:21 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just wait until they learn the real meaning of D&D....
posted by JoanArkham at 9:22 AM on January 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Chaotic Neutral Paladin? The frak?

In 4th Edition paladins can be of any alignment, although the alignment must match that of their deity, but the 4th edition alignment system was (sort of) simplified into lawful good, good, unaligned, evil, and chaotic evil. So, yeah, any way you slice it there are no CN paladins.
posted by jedicus at 9:23 AM on January 26, 2010


I think it's silly to say this game could harm his rehabilitation (as a person in prison, since he has life). D&D is a social activity, and it helps to develop critical thinking skills, imagination, and the ability to deal with stress. That sounds to me like a good way for an inmate to learn how to better deal with conflict and to peacefully serve out his sentence.

Granted, I have the liberal stance that prison is meant to teach criminals how to function peacefully (either in society or the prison environment) rather than to mete out punishment for revenge. I think the priority should be to focus on what is most good for society as a whole. Punishment just for the sake of spiting someone who harmed us is not a good idea.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:23 AM on January 26, 2010


It's an easy fix: Have a guard be the DM (so it's no longer a gang) and restrict the players to Neutral or Good, and Chaotic is forbidden outright.

"Ok, so you guys are in prison"

"Ha-ha. Very funny. Where's the fucking tavern at?"

"Fuck that. You burnt it down. You're in prison."

"This module sucks ass."
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:24 AM on January 26, 2010 [17 favorites]


No, it exists to be played to the frakin' hilt so you can piss off all the other players with your god-given righteousness. If my sheet says "Paladin" then bring the spiral-slicer because I am going to HAM IT UP.

My favorite Paladin character was a mentally unbalanced fanatic who believed Helm spoke to him PERSONALLY (and possibly he *was* Helm) and all other Paladins are corrupt and decadent. god-given righteousness plus homicidal religious extremism and all the crazy laws of his new faith he made up on the spot. He was awesome.
posted by The Whelk at 9:24 AM on January 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


I totally would have expected Easterbrook to do everything in his power to promote the levels of rulesgeeking one sees in a smashing campaign in D&D. on the other hand, blind deference to the judgment of prison officials in deciding what's appropriate in the institution? not in the least surprising, and all kinds of wrong.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:26 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


In-fucking-credible. Personally, I don't really have a dog in this fight about prisoners playing D&D--other than it just seems phenomenally dumb and likely counter productive to reducing prison violence--but now, amazingly, there is a Circuit precedent for supporting a rational link between D&D and gangs.
No there's not.
posted by Flunkie at 9:28 AM on January 26, 2010


Here's the direct link to the Oral Argument.

Easterbrook is the one who sounds like God.
posted by HabeasCorpus at 9:28 AM on January 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Paladins were just invented so my characters have someone to lie to about what I'm doing with the bodies of these dudes we just killed.
posted by haveanicesummer at 9:28 AM on January 26, 2010


Prison isn't supposed to be fun. That's why they call it prison.

I've never been in prison, but I have heard that there's really no activity that makes prison "fun". D&D, like bouncing a rubber ball against the wall, is really just a temporary distraction.

If we want to go all-out, then they shouldn't get any games. If we're OK with the fact that humans, even criminals, seek distractions from a terrible situation, then banning D&D doesn't make any sense.
posted by muddgirl at 9:28 AM on January 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


I wonder whether this ban is strictly on Dungeons and Dragons, or a more general ban on RPGs? Dude could pick up a copy of Pathfinder, argue that it's totally not D&D at all, and keep on trucking.
posted by explosion at 9:29 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Or maybe we compromise and only let them play games that are sort of unpleasant and teach community values, like Arkham Horror.
posted by muddgirl at 9:29 AM on January 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I thought they called it prison because it was a place where you are secluded until you are deemed worthy of participating in society.

I don't get the idea that we have to make prisoners' lives hell. Is that going to make them better people? I think it would just make them bitter.
posted by LogicalDash at 9:30 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


My favorite Paladin character was a mentally unbalanced fanatic who believed Helm spoke to him PERSONALLY (and possibly he *was* Helm)

So it was sort of like the D&D version of the Ferris Bueller Theory?
posted by Pollomacho at 9:30 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


amazingly, there is a Circuit precedent for supporting a rational link between D&D and gangs.

No there's not.


I presume you're saying that in the normative sense, as you and I both know this is bunk. But in a descriptive legal sense, that is what the Seventh Circuit concluded in the opinion. Totally bizarre to me.

Love the Chick tract! That was awesome.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:33 AM on January 26, 2010


We just sort of generally like hurting people as a society. We set up this classification for ourselves as "good" people, and define everyone else as "bad" people, and once we've classified people as "bad", we've established a category of persons whom we can hit as hard as we want to, as often as we want to.

It's about grabbing one's cock and putting the boot, and the gratification of hurting somebody that has been designated as deserving. Full stop.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:33 AM on January 26, 2010 [10 favorites]


eradicate all Dungeons and Dragons game materials among concerns that playing it promotes gang-related activity

...Schillinger all burning the map to the The Temple of Elemental Evil on Beecher's behind...
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:34 AM on January 26, 2010


Prison isn't supposed to be fun. That's why they call it prison.

prison
c.1123, from O.Fr. prisoun "prison, imprisonment" (11c.), altered (by influence of pris "taken;" see prize (2)) from earlier preson, from L. prensionem (nom. prensio), shortening of prehensionem (nom. *prehensio) "a taking," noun of action from pp. stem of prehendere "to take" (see prehensile). Captives taken in war were called prisoners since c.1350; phrase prisoner of war dates from 1678 (see also POW).
posted by Pollomacho at 9:34 AM on January 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Prison isn't supposed to be fun.
It also isn't supposed to be for crushing all joy of any sort.
That's why they call it prison.
They call it "prison" because the Anglo-French word word for "to seize" was "prehendere".
posted by Flunkie at 9:36 AM on January 26, 2010 [8 favorites]


In jail, I wonder who gets the role of DM?
posted by stormpooper at 9:36 AM on January 26, 2010


a policy was initiated in 2004 to eradicate all Dungeons and Dragons game materials among concerns that playing it promotes gang-related activity


Interesting. I was under the impression that PRISON promotes gang-related activity.
posted by spicynuts at 9:38 AM on January 26, 2010 [15 favorites]


Prison isn't supposed to be fun. That's why they call it prison.

What would you rather have the inmates doing? Working out, watching mind-numbing TV and eventually getting out on parole? I would be willing to gamble that the more intellectual pursuits they follow, the less chance of re-offence.

Derail - Is prison fundamentally about punishment or rehabilitation? Because if it is about punishment only, we should really consider harsher measures instead of simply locking someone up - that's wasteful and serves no purpose if the person is locked-up until they die. If the purpose is to punish and scare potential offenders from deviating from the norm, then justice should be swift and brutal.

Personally - I believe most people can change and can be rehabilitated.
posted by jkaczor at 9:39 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Prison isn't supposed to be fun. That's why they call it prison.

It's also, if you believe there is any sort of rehabilitative function to incarceration, not supposed to be soul-destroying torment. Allowing or even encouraging inmates to engage in activities on the inside that, if pursued vocationally or avocationally back in open society, would make the world no worse a place and potentially a better place, seems like a reasonable policy.

They're in prison. They've been forcibly removed from society; they are without basic freedom. That's a lot. That's not remotely fun. Letting them in the meantime find ways to imagine and collaborate creatively and find ways to do something positive and productive with themselves seems like a smart move.

In any case, the weirdness of the intersection of D&D and Circuit decisions seems like more interesting and novel territory for discussion than another unresolvable round of "how bad should prison be, exactly".
posted by cortex at 9:39 AM on January 26, 2010 [10 favorites]


So, if the problem is that it gives some prisoners control over other prisoners (if only in the gameworld), then roleplaying games without game masters should be fine, right?

How do I send them a copy of Primetime Adventures?
posted by LogicalDash at 9:41 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Gelatinous Cubes can't issue rulings, can they?

*mimic assumes gavel form*
posted by benzenedream at 9:41 AM on January 26, 2010


I refuse to participate in this thread on the ground it might incriminate me.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:41 AM on January 26, 2010


Derail - Is prison fundamentally about punishment or rehabilitation?

That is the fundamental philosophical question of penology. I am no expert, having studied criminal law only in law school, but if you're interested, you might start on the wikipedia page.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:42 AM on January 26, 2010


Hi Dad, I'm in a jail! I like it here! I rolled a 20! Hello Dad!
posted by haveanicesummer at 9:43 AM on January 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


I've never understand why prisioners dont' have the sense to make prison the most wonderful, peaceful place on earth and think that they don't have to work, pay bills, watch tv, play chess...

30 years to life and just sit around and have fun, talk, etc? But no, they go play D&D and start gang fights. Lame.
posted by stormpooper at 9:44 AM on January 26, 2010


Nothing scares the shit out of corrections officers like inmates getting along.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:46 AM on January 26, 2010 [13 favorites]


Someone here should have written an Amicus brief. You have all failed the Criminal Justice System!
posted by cjorgensen at 9:46 AM on January 26, 2010


I've never understand why prisioners dont' have the sense to make prison the most wonderful, peaceful place on earth and think that they don't have to work, pay bills, watch tv, play chess...
posted by stormpooper


There's a This American Life episode where they interview a Hacker/Phreaker and he talks about how great his white collar jail experience was. He learned a lot about real estate fraud from his roommate, made lots of friends, and didn't want to go home afterwards. Got lots of job offers from the other inmates too.
posted by haveanicesummer at 9:46 AM on January 26, 2010


We just sort of generally like hurting people as a society. We set up this classification for ourselves as "good" people, and define everyone else as "bad" people, and once we've classified people as "bad", we've established a category of persons whom we can hit as hard as we want to, as often as we want to.

While I agree that the Prison is probably being a bit overzealous, we aren't talking about recalcitrant teenagers at summer camp. The person who brought the suit KILLED SOMEBODY THAT DID NOT HAVE TO DIE.

If he doesn't get to play D&D because of (arguably legitimate) gang and violence concerns, I find it hard to get worked up over. Point is, this isn't a example of the evils of society.


It's about grabbing one's cock and putting the boot, and the gratification of hurting somebody that has been designated as deserving. Full stop.


I'm not sure how you get any sort of EVIL PENIS OPPRESSION out of this, but I personally think the discussion would be better off without it.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:47 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've never understand why prisioners dont' have the sense to make prison the most wonderful, peaceful place on earth...

Primarily because most of them have been poorly socialized or otherwise have something wrong with their thought processes that caused them to go to prison in the first place.

Even beyond that, prison guards, politicians, etc. all think that prisoners deserve to be punished, not just incarcerated, so if they ever neared this utopian dream, it'd be derailed. Either they'd purposely stick a Crip in with a Blood, or they'd harass the prisoners, or find some technicality (like this D&D seizure) to ruin it all. Remember, "Prison Utopia" getting reported in the news is political suicide.
posted by explosion at 9:50 AM on January 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


The person who brought the suit KILLED SOMEBODY THAT DID NOT HAVE TO DIE.

See? You're more interested in the gratification of kicking him than in the question of what actions produce the best penal outcomes. Hope it feels good, man, because it fucking destroys our society.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:52 AM on January 26, 2010 [19 favorites]


(frantically searches mage-book for EVIL PENIS OPRESSION)
posted by The Whelk at 9:55 AM on January 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Christ, they actually cited Watters v. TSR.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:57 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pope Guilty, I think you're begging the question.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:57 AM on January 26, 2010


Oh MetaFilter, you're the MetaFilteriest.

I don't get the idea that we have to make prisoners' lives hell.

It's about grabbing one's cock and putting the boot, and the gratification of hurting somebody that has been designated as deserving. Full stop.

Jesus, it's not like the prison guards are arguing they have the right to pin the guy and piss down his throat. I think all convicts have a right to vocational and educational programs and access to theraputic services, but I'm having a hard time getting het up that The Man took this guy's d20 away because of a complaint from another inmate. And yesyesyes, I know, the turnkeys could have easily ginned up the complaint to fuck with the guy.

In jail, I wonder who gets the role of DM?

Who would want it?
"Okay, well, you failed your roll, and are crushed by the landslide, sorry-"
"You remember why I'm here, right?"
"... ROLL SUCCESSFUL!"
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:58 AM on January 26, 2010


I'm sure that since it's now forbidden, D&D, like drugs, will completely cease to exist in prisons.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 9:58 AM on January 26, 2010 [12 favorites]


Prison isn't supposed to be fun. That's why they call it prison.

Put hundreds of violent, poorly socialized, bad at long-term decision making men into a confined space for years on end. What do you think is going to happen if they're not sufficiently distracted from their circumstances?
posted by fatbird at 9:58 AM on January 26, 2010


Christ, they actually cited Watters v. TSR.
posted by Faint of Butt


Too bad they apparently didn't read the important bit.

As far as the record discloses, no one had any reason to know that Johnny Burnett was going to take his own life. We cannot tell why he did so or what his mental state was at the time. His death surely was not the fault of his mother, or his school, or his friends, or the manufacturer of the game he and his friends so loved to play. Tragedies such as this simply defy rational explanation, and courts should not pretend otherwise.

The judgment for the defendant is AFFIRMED
.
posted by haveanicesummer at 10:01 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


He frequently ordered D&D publications and game materials by mail and had them delivered to his cell.

No, no, no. I ordered a CAKE WITH A FILE IN IT, not a vial with a drake in it!
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:01 AM on January 26, 2010 [8 favorites]


That is the fundamental philosophical question of penology.

I know - my question was rhetorical.

See? You're more interested in the gratification of kicking him than in the question of what actions produce the best penal outcomes.

Exactly - so, if people who believe in prison only as punishment take things to the logical conclusion - why have prison at all? An "eye for an eye" - you murder someone, guess what? You steal? Lose all your posessions. Steal again - lose a hand... And so on. Far more efficient than locking up people into prisons and essentially forcing them to join gangs for protection and then basically treating them like human garbage so that they can never re-join society.

Back to thread - I notice they took away his journal/module/scenario. So would this ruling cover something entirely created from scratch?
posted by jkaczor at 10:04 AM on January 26, 2010


See? You're more interested in the gratification of kicking him than in the question of what actions produce the best penal outcomes. Hope it feels good, man, because it fucking destroys our society.

No. I don't see. Because the very next sentence is:

If he doesn't get to play D&D because of (arguably legitimate) gang and violence concerns, I find it hard to get worked up over. Point is, this isn't a example of the evils of society.

Next time, read the whole thing, please.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:12 AM on January 26, 2010


Here's the direct link to the Oral Argument.

Was that a motion for summary judgment, and was it found in favor of the defendant?
posted by kid ichorous at 10:13 AM on January 26, 2010


Sorry if those are noobish questions
posted by kid ichorous at 10:14 AM on January 26, 2010


Dehumanizing and oppressing prisoners is not the function of prison and is demonstrably counterproductive, dangerous and unconstitutional. Where the banning of D&D falls on the continuum of dehumanization and oppression, I am not prepared to argue, but I do have to respond to the knee-jerk "Prison is not supposed to be fun, duh! Don't let those fuckers do anything but rot" reaction. Regardless of whether you believe imprisonment is primarily punitive or primarily rehabilitative, you must acknowledge that at the end of service of sentence, the prison is released into the society from which he has been barred during his imprisonment. Regardless of the purpose of his imprisonment, we get him back at the end. It behooves us to make sure he doesn't come back less socialized.

Recently, I took my aunt to task to over this concept (I hope I wasn't disrespectful). She was shocked recently hearing in the press that civil rights groups challenge the exorbitant rate prisons charge for collect phone calls made by prisoners. She couldn't figure out why anyone should care that the rates were prohibitive because what business did prisoners have talking on the phone? See, she was looking at it like the prisoners were teenagers, hanging out in the their bedrooms chatting about American Idol, gossiping, goofing off on the phone, while they were supposed to be, you know, in prison, grounded, not having fun. What I said was "no-one is saying the phone calls need to be free. no-one is saying phone privileges need to be unlimited. But look at it this way. You've got a guy, sent to prison for five years for possession of a firearm. He loses his job; his apartment, probably his car, and he sits in prison doing nothing for five years. What happens when he gets out? Well, if he's been able to maintain some contact with his family or his friends, when he's released, he might have somewhere to stay. Charge his family $5/minute to talk to him on the phone when it's an eight-hour drive to the prison to visit him, and what sort of connection is he likely to maintain? What's going to happen to him when he gets out and he hasn't talked to a nonprisoner in five years? When his family feels guilty that they could not afford a phone call? or when they have permitted the loss of contact to erase this person completely from their life? Or should his girlfriend/wife/sister have to choose between paying her electric bill and letting the prisoner call home?" I asked her who she thought was paying for those phone calls. They aren't coming out of the prisoner's 401k or savings account. They are not coming out of his current earnings. Someone, not in prison, is paying for the phone calls, is depositing money into his prison account.

Prison is certainly appropriate for folks who commit crimes and are properly convicted and reasonably sentenced. Loss of privilege is the essence of imprisonment. So, yes, deny prisoners liberties and privilege. But the question of appropriate ways to deny prisoners liberties and privileges is a very dense question. Housing prisoners is expensive, complicated and dangerous; so the prisons must be able to control conditions to reduce expenses, simplify and keep prisoners and guards safe. Controlling access to the prisoners, to the outside world, to types of recreational activities is part of that. I'd never say it wasn't necessary.

However, treatment and control of prisoners directly affects reintegration. Reintegration affects recidivism, which affects costs, complications and safety of housing prisoners. Prison isn't supposed to be fun, no, I guess not. I doubt any of the permitted recreational activities in a prison would do much to change that. As a society, I think worrying about how much fun our prisoners might have is fairly ludicrous.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:14 AM on January 26, 2010 [32 favorites]


Salvor Hardin : I'm sure that since it's now forbidden, D&D, like drugs, will completely cease to exist in prisons.

I was thinking the same thing; what's to stop people from just developing their own bookless versions of these games? The DM/ Judge has final say on all questionable rulings anyway and the whole of the story can exist in their heads. Add in some standard dice and the most rudimentary methods of keeping track of character stats and you have a perfectly viable game.

More importantly, driving this underground means an increasing likelihood that someone out there is going to get rough-looking d10/ d20 prison tats, and when they get out and roll up into Gen-Con they'll be able to flash them and represent.
posted by quin at 10:16 AM on January 26, 2010


The DM/ Judge has final say on all questionable rulings anyway and the whole of the story can exist in their heads. Add in some standard dice and the most rudimentary methods of keeping track of character stats and you have a perfectly viable game.

Without the Books of course, the game will mutate into some new hybrid of styles

"You are in the Dread Cell Block C. it is After Lock down, you notice the shadow of a Beholder Security Officer in the next room ..."
posted by The Whelk at 10:18 AM on January 26, 2010


Speaking of Risk and Violence...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7yf4A0dGyAE

RIMMER: So a six and a three and he came back with a three and a two.
LISTER: Rimmer, can’t you tell the story is not gripping me? I’m in a
state of non-grippedness, I am completely smegging ungripped. Shut the
smeg up.
RIMMER: Don’t you want to hear the Risk story?
LISTER: That’s what I’ve been saying for the last fifteen minutes.
RIMMER: But I thought that was because I hadn’t got to the really
interesting bit…
LISTER: What really interesting bit?
RIMMER: Ah well, that was about two hours later, after he’d thrown a
three and a two and I’d thrown a four and a one. I picked up the
dice…
"LISTER: Hang on Rimmer, hang on… the really interesting bit is exactly
the same as the dull bit.
RIMMER: You don’t know what I did with the dice though, do you? For all
you know, I could have jammed them up his nostrils, head butted him on
the nose and they could have blasted out of his ears. That would’ve
been quite interesting.
LISTER: OK, Rimmer. What did you do with the dice?.
RIMMER: I threw a five and a two.
LISTER: And that’s the really interesting bit?
RIMMER: Well it was interesting to me, it got me into Irkutsk."
posted by symbioid at 10:29 AM on January 26, 2010


I'm a bit worried that if MetaFilter were to start a private prison, it'd be exactly like The Village. Including Rover. Especially including Rover.

Okay, maybe we'd call it Tater.
posted by mccarty.tim at 10:30 AM on January 26, 2010



I'm confused. I used to play in summer camp, and we would always tell the camp counselors we were playing a game called Forgotten Realms. As long as we didn't call it D&D, they seemed happy enough.

Is the fight just about his D&D books? The game is pretty much just creative, collaborative storytelling with some die rolls thrown in to help sort out some of the details. There is really not much the prison could do to limit inmates from making up characters and telling stories apart from separating them or keeping them perpetually busy. It seems to me like it wouldn't be too difficult to find a way around it if you really wanted to play.

Prison isn't supposed to be fun.

Here, here! Let's let them get back to lifting weights and practicing raping each other. That way we'll have something to be outraged about when let them back on the streets too.
posted by Avelwood at 10:31 AM on January 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


> I wonder whether this ban is strictly on Dungeons and Dragons, or a more general ban on RPGs? Dude could pick up a copy of Pathfinder, argue that it's totally not D&D at all...

Or he could just pick up a copy of fourth edition...
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:31 AM on January 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


Hmm. Prisoners learning to practice basic math and use their imagination vs. getting buffed and practicing how to make better shanks?

Fun or no fun, I know which folks I'd rather have running around after they get out.
posted by yeloson at 10:39 AM on January 26, 2010


The problem with prisons is that they're ultimately about control, no matter how much ink or bits gets spilled about rehabilitation vs. punishment. It's all, ultimately, about controlling people who didn't toe the line.

And the thing about maintaining control is that you can't really do that if you don't understand what the people are doing, or why they're doing that particular thing. Because, really, you'd think that D&D would accomplish one of the primary goals of control, which is to keep people too busy to get bored and pissed off. But they draw up all these elaborate maps and cite obscure rules and talk about these "spells" and "feats" and stuff, and for all you know it's gang code and plans for rioting and taking over the prison, even though the maps look nothing like the prison grounds. And you don't want to bother with trying to figure out every fucking little thing that the cons come up with to keep from getting bored, because you've got a prison to run.

And you sure don't care about the prisoner that wants to keep their problem-solving skills sharp for when they get out, or have the possibility of a support network that doesn't involve other ex-cons or the lowlifes that got the prisoner in jail in the first place. That's not your lookout. It's your prison, and your rules, and it's not the prisoner's role to question that, it's their job to get with the fucking program. If they want to play a board game they can get down with Monopoly or something.

for the subtlety-challenged: I'm not defending this POV, just trying to describe it.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:44 AM on January 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Here, here! Let's let them get back to lifting weights

WTF.
posted by rr at 10:45 AM on January 26, 2010


> More importantly, driving this underground means an increasing likelihood that someone out there is going to get rough-looking d10/ d20 prison tats, and when they get out and roll up into Gen-Con they'll be able to flash them and represent.

Artist's rendering.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:48 AM on January 26, 2010


Newscaster: Dungeons and Dragons. Al Capone's game. Your prisoners, like it or not, are attracted in their weaker years to organized crime, and a game like D&D fuels their imagination and makes them feel special, while drawing them deeper and deeper into the bowels of La Cosa Nostra! This afternoon, the KARE 11 News Team invites you to sit in on an actual prison gaming session. Observe the previously unobservable as a hidden camera takes you to the Inner Cell of Dungeons and Dragons.

DM-bag: White Power Bill, you have entered the cell to the north. You are now by yourself, standing in a dark room. The pungent stench of mildew emanates from the wet prison walls.
Pruno: Where's my cigarettes?
DM-bag: They're right next to you.
White Power Bill: I shank a dude.
Pruno: Where's my Pruno?
DM-bag: In the toilet, duh!
White Power Bill: I wanna shank a dude!
Pruno: Can I have some Pruno?
DM-bag: Yes, you can have some Pruno, just go get it.
White Power Bill: I can shank anybody, right? In the prison?
DM-bag: Yes, any, any of the new fish.
Pruno: I'm gonna get some Pruno; anyone want some? Hey, DM-bag, I'm not in the cell, right?
DM-bag: What cell?
White Power Bill: I wanna shank...The Warden!
Pruno: The room where he's shanking all these dudes in!
DM-bag: He hasn't shanked anybody yet.
White Power Bill: I am though, if you'd listen. I'm shanking...The Warden.
DM-bag: Why are you shanking The Warden? There's no Warden to shank here!
White Power Bill: I...I'm shanking the darkness!
DM-bag: Fine, fine, you shank the darkness. There's a Crip in front of you.
Crip: Whoah! That's me, right?
DM-bag: He's wearing a grey bandana, and he has grey hair, and blue eyes...
Crip: No, I don't, I have grey eyes.
DM-bag: Let me see that sheet.
Crip: Well, it says I have...Well, it says here I have blue, but I decided I wanted grey eyes. It's my gang color.
DM-bag: Whatever. OK, you guys can talk to each other now, if you want.
White Power Bill: Hello.
Crip: Hello.
White Power Bill: I am White Power Bill, King of Waupun Cell Block C.
Crip: Then how come you had to shank The Warden?
DM-bag: You...you guys are being jumped.
Pruno: Do I see that happening?
DM-bag: No, you're outside, by the chow hall.
Pruno: Cool, I get drunk.
DM-bag: There are seven Bloods surrounding you.
Crip: How could they surround us? I had Little Fancy Mortie holding my pocket and being a lookout?
DM-bag: No, you didn't.
Pruno: I'm getting drunk. Are there any fish there?
Crip: I totally did! You asked me if I had my girlfriend smuggle in anything before this adventure and I said No. But I need a pack of cigarettes to buy Little Fancy Mortie. So I made him hold my pocket and watch out for Bloods!
DM-bag: But you never actually bought him.
Pruno: Roll the dice to see if I'm getting drunk.
DM-bag: (rolls dice) Yeah, you are.
Pruno: Are there any fish there?
DM-bag: Yeah.
Crip: I did though! I completely said when you asked me!
DM-bag: No you didn't! You didn't actually SAY that you were buying Mortie. So now there's
Bloods. OK?!
Pruno: Bloods?! Man, I got an toothbrush with a razor blade rubber banded to it! It could kill like 9 Bloods!
DM-bag: You're not there! You're getting drunk!
Pruno: OK, but if there's any fish there, I wanna DO them!

Newscaster: There you have it! A frightening look into America's most frightening penal institution. Remember that it's not the inmate's fault that they're being drawn into a Gangland world of nightmare. It's Hasbro's fault, for making them feel outcast, when they couldn't make one single saving throw.
posted by haveanicesummer at 10:49 AM on January 26, 2010 [9 favorites]


I like the idea of D&D gangs roaming the projects late at night. "Hey motherfucker, we only roll Black Pearl around here!"
posted by rtimmel at 10:55 AM on January 26, 2010


Metafilter: Prison isn't supposed to be fun.
posted by tzikeh at 10:56 AM on January 26, 2010


As a society, I think worrying about how much fun our prisoners might have is fairly ludicrous.

I was with you until the last sentence; seriously, your points about returning prisoners to society is spot-on.

However, I don't think it's ludicrous to ponder the question, because in application (not in theory), I think that a focus on socialization, visitations, contact with the outside world, offering prisoners meaningful work, etc, the current system creates a "prisoner culture" that is carried back into society, to society's detriment. When doing time becomes less about doing time and more about a merely annoying rite of passage, we've completely lost the plot.

Contrast our system with Japan's, where prisoners spend shorter sentences in the joint, but while in the joint, what socialization they have is regimented in the extreme. Contact with the outside is minimal or prohibited entirely. Contact with fellow prisoners is kept deliberately minimal (often, you're not allowed to talk to your cellmate). Prison is not fun. It's not anything. It's prison. And yet recidivism rates are significantly lower, and prison costs are way lower.

There's a hell of a lot not to like about Japan's penal system, though, so this isn't a rah-rah Japan opinion.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:59 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


After a shitty day this thread has made me laugh more than anything on the blue in many a month.
posted by ciderwoman at 11:04 AM on January 26, 2010


Admiral Haddock: Will America's war on nerds never end?
There's a school of thought on American life that goes something like: Life is just high school. Over and over and over again.

They have sanctioned football in prison.
posted by Western Infidels at 11:08 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


someone out there is going to get rough-looking d10/ d20 prison tats

I'm picturing a bared forearm on which a prisoner number has been spelled out in polyhedrals.
posted by adamdschneider at 11:09 AM on January 26, 2010


Beats me, D&D nerds. I played Paranoia

God, I loved Paranoia. 2nd edition.
"live fast, die young, and leave a beautiful set of 6 corpses."
posted by reverend cuttle at 11:14 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Prison isn't supposed to be fun. That's why they call it prison.

I'm kind of upset that no one else seems to have caught the Mamet reference. It's ok, caution live frogs, I liked it.
posted by Errant at 11:20 AM on January 26, 2010


The Gamma World Gang just took control. Just like they planned.
posted by Senator at 11:35 AM on January 26, 2010


I'm totally starting a D&D game when I end up in the asylum or the retirement home, though.
posted by The otter lady at 11:35 AM on January 26, 2010


The Gamma World Gang just took control. Just like they planned.

The Metamorphosis Alpha gang are in for a big surprise when they break out.
posted by GuyZero at 11:36 AM on January 26, 2010


Bad news for bad nerds.
posted by electroboy at 11:43 AM on January 26, 2010


> I'm picturing a bared forearm on which a prisoner number has been spelled out in polyhedrals.

Don't be daft. There will be too many instances of sequential numbers that violate the die's proof (i.e., the numbers on all opposing faces won't equal d?+1.)

Gorram, I'm a nerd.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:43 AM on January 26, 2010


Pogo Fuzzybutt: If he doesn't get to play D&D because of (arguably legitimate) gang and violence concerns, I find it hard to get worked up over. Point is, this isn't a example of the evils of society.

Arguably legitimate?! IT'S DUNGEONS & DRAGONS.

Honestly, these kinds of threads make me weep for our future. We're still having arguments that were intolerably stupid in the 1980s!

There are outrage posts where I think that's idiotic and needs to be stopped now, but then someone else chimes in and provides context, or an alternate way of looking at things, and I realize I was wrong. I come to see that, due to the way the post was framed, or the failures of the reporting, or my own biases, there really wasn't anything to be outraged about. And while being wrong isn't a pleasant experience, at least the world isn't as bad as a place as I thought.

This has not turned out to be one of those threads.
posted by JHarris at 11:47 AM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


CPBell: I didn't say "thinking about the question" was ludicrous; I said "worrying about the 'fun' " is ludicrous. It was my way of trying to show that "prison isn't supposed to be fun" is missing the point of prison, as well as missing the point of the debate about how to define the limits of privileges and liberties afforded prisoners. (It was the sound bite; not the essence, if you will) Describing any necessarily constrained recreation or limited privilege/liberty that a prisoner is afforded as "fun" completely misrepresents the debate.
posted by crush-onastick at 11:47 AM on January 26, 2010



I wonder whether this ban is strictly on Dungeons and Dragons, or a more general ban on RPGs? Dude could pick up a copy of Pathfinder, argue that it's totally not D&D at all, and keep on trucking.


Ok dudes, no D&D, so we're going to roll up some D20 modern. You guys are all chillin' out in in this supermax prison when a dimensional rift opens up out of nowhere and...oh what's that? a vaguely reptilian giant winged thing breathing fire?
posted by juv3nal at 11:51 AM on January 26, 2010


The Gamma World Gang just took control.

Fuck those giant rabbits. Fuck them right in their enormous ears.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:08 PM on January 26, 2010


All I know is I wouldn't want to roll the snuck in from the outside 20-sided die. Never know where it's been.
posted by stormpooper at 12:09 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pogo Fuzzybutt: If he doesn't get to play D&D because of (arguably legitimate) gang and violence concerns, I find it hard to get worked up over. Point is, this isn't a example of the evils of society.

Arguably legitimate?! IT'S DUNGEONS & DRAGONS.


Listen, they restrict what inmates can wear for those same reasons. And we're talking BASEBALL CAPS AND BANDANAS!!! OMG!!!ELEVELN!!

At this point, I'm more willing to take the word of prison officials that there is a legitimate gang related concern over that of a convicted murderer.

Not that there isn't plenty wrong with the prison system from top to bottom - but I don't see this as symptomatic of it.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:11 PM on January 26, 2010


At this point, I'm more willing to take the word of prison officials that there is a legitimate gang related concern over that of a convicted murderer.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt


The court cited previous cases wherein D&D was accused making people crazy, essentially. You shouldn't take anyone's word for anything. Figure it out for yourself.
posted by haveanicesummer at 12:22 PM on January 26, 2010


In a December 6, 2004 letter to Singer, Muraski informed Singer that “inmates are not allowed to engage in or possess written material that details rules, codes, dogma of games/activities such as ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ because it promotes fantasy role playing, competitive hostility, violence, addictive escape behaviors, and possible gambling.”
That seems weirdly tautological. It it a fantasy role playing game, and thus, I suppose, does promote fantasy role playing. I'm just not sure why it belongs on the list with those other things.
posted by Karmakaze at 12:22 PM on January 26, 2010


And we're talking BASEBALL CAPS AND BANDANAS!!! OMG!!!ELEVELN!!

Please don't do this. Acting stupid ironically is still acting stupid.
posted by ODiV at 12:24 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Listen, they restrict what inmates can wear for those same reasons. And we're talking BASEBALL CAPS AND BANDANAS!!! OMG!!!ELEVELN!!

They did this in my rural high school too, to prevent gang activity. IN A RURAL HIGH SCHOOL!

They didn't however ban D&D or Magic the Gathering or anything else that the nerds were doing...want to know why? There was no gang activity associated with those things, and surely, no nerds were going to start a gang in a rural high school. But wearing bandanas? Not acceptable at all.

Gimme a break.
posted by schyler523 at 12:29 PM on January 26, 2010


it promotes fantasy role playing, competitive hostility, violence, addictive escape behaviors, and possible gambling.”

That seems weirdly tautological. It it a fantasy role playing game, and thus, I suppose, does promote fantasy role playing. I'm just not sure why it belongs on the list with those other things.


That's why they still permit Rolemaster. 20 years later and you've just finished your character.

sad trombone
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:30 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's also, if you believe there is any sort of rehabilitative function to incarceration, not supposed to be soul-destroying torment.
Lack of D&D does not create soul-destroying torment. How did you not feel foolish writing that sentence?

What would you rather have the inmates doing?
Reading all the books they want.

Getting locked up means you give up some things: chocolate cake, a comfortable bed, vagina, D&D. Yeah, prison is tough and conditions should be fundamentally improved. But if you make it just like everyday life on the outside, you remove any disincentive from committing crimes.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:32 PM on January 26, 2010


*Squints, looks away*
posted by Burhanistan at 12:34 PM on January 26, 2010



They did this in my rural high school too, to prevent gang activity. IN A RURAL HIGH SCHOOL!

Yeah, that's dumb. Unless your high school was full of actual gang members and convicted murderers LIKE A PRISON.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:36 PM on January 26, 2010


This was made fun of on the local radio (they play both kinds of music) news. Amazed they actually got the details of the story right.
posted by Mitheral at 12:36 PM on January 26, 2010


chocolate cake, a comfortable bed, vagina, D&D

Who says prisoners don't get chocolate cake from time to time.

If they wanna make a ruling banning all games, that's fine. I just don't understand why D&D is specifically excluded. Fine, they have a right to do so or whatever, but it's completely illogical and smacks of fundamentalism if nothing else.
posted by muddgirl at 12:37 PM on January 26, 2010


Lack of D&D does not create soul-destroying torment. How did you not feel foolish writing that sentence?

My comment was in response to a quip that prison should not be "fun"; the implication is that joylessness is proper and only acceptable state of existence for an inmate. The systematic enforcement of joylessness is bad for a person, and in a purportedly rehabilitative context it's a terrible idea.

I would feel foolish if I had been caught claiming that D&D was the sole possible source of joy for a prisoner, but it should be very clear from context that I wasn't saying that.

if you make it just like everyday life on the outside, you remove any disincentive from committing crimes.

In the same respect that denying inmates the right to play D&D is not by itself a condemnation of the system, neither is allowing them to play it. Given that this is a game that requires creative engagement and collaboration, it's a bizarre point on continuum to place the fulcrum of denial, however. You could just as well ban writing.
posted by cortex at 12:42 PM on January 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Unless your high school was full of actual gang members and convicted murderers LIKE A PRISON.

Pogo: there's what you can do, because you are permitted to under the law, and because, perhaps, you have the moral authority to do. That still doesn't supply a rational connection between the means and the goal that isn't otherwise there.

I have to go with the Pope on this one. If this is about depriving the prisoners of "escapism" (rather than a completely wrong-headed "anti-gang" measure), it's in the same chapter as prohibiting drugs which would dull the senses of prisoners to be executed because, omg, wouldn't it be terrible if the family of the victim saw the murderer die with a smile on his face. Death isn't punishment enough. Here, imprisonment isn't punishment enough. No. Any relief, any joy, should be firmly stamped out. I'm glad to know that there are MeFites out there who, when they saw Shawshank Redemption, were fucking rooting for those C.O.'s to bust into the Warden's office and turn that goddamn opera music off and root those prisoners firmly back into their grinding, limited existence.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:47 PM on January 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Lack of D&D does not create soul-destroying torment. How did you not feel foolish writing that sentence?

Denying a person recreation that they enjoy is actually pretty goddamn psychologically damaging and makes it difficult for them to relate to other people and to adjust to their surroundings.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:48 PM on January 26, 2010


Someone here should have written an Amicus brief. You have all failed the Criminal Justice System!

Seriously though, it's a shame the dude didn't have access to good counsel. He collected fifteen affidavits but nonetheless "failed to demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact concerning the reasonableness of the relationship between Waupun’s D&D ban and the prison’s clearly legitimate penological interests." Poor fucker.
posted by exogenous at 1:05 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was having a hard time reconciling the fact that one of my geek brethren would commit such an atrocious crime, so I found this:

Singer was sentenced to life in prison in 2002 after being found guilty of first-degree intentional homicide in the killing of his sister's boyfriend. The man was bludgeoned to death with a sledgehammer.

So we've got a devoted D&D player who was likely under some sort of impression that his sister was being abused so he killed the guy doing it. You're going to sit here and continue to tell us that this nerdy (and potentially otherwise gentle) guy doesn't deserve the only thing he has left in his life, Pogo?
posted by june made him a gemini at 1:18 PM on January 26, 2010


So we've got a devoted D&D player who was likely under some sort of impression that his sister was being abused so he killed the guy doing it. You're going to sit here and continue to tell us that this nerdy (and potentially otherwise gentle) guy doesn't deserve the only thing he has left in his life, Pogo?

No, the people of the State of Wisconsin determined that he should be imprisoned for his crime. In prison, sometimes they have to restrict ordinary things in order to guarantee the safety of the prisoners and the people who guard them.

Again, we aren't talking about summer camp, or even county jail, here. We're talking about murderers and thugs. People who in the past have not exercised good judgement (a cold blooded murder by sledgehammer... ).

The prison officials were concerned about "competitive hostility, violence, addictive escape behaviors, and possible gambling" and those concerns are legitimate. I've played D&D (and paranoia, rifts, TW2000 and so on) a great dea, so yeah, I can see that. Especially the competitiveness.

I don't necessarily agree that it has to be banned. There are other ways to address those concerns. But they know how to run a prison better than I do, and a ban is not an unreasonable approach in light of those concerns. It sucks, but the guy could have, you know, not bludgeoned someone to death with a sledgehammer.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:45 PM on January 26, 2010


“At this point, I'm more willing to take the word of prison officials that there is a legitimate gang related concern over that of a convicted murderer.”

Which is why inmates human rights have never been abused.

“’What would you rather have the inmates doing?’
‘Reading all the books they want’.”

Aside from interaction with others, D&D is pretty much, y’know, in books.
I’m curious – if the prisoners were engaged in collaborative storytelling or started an improvisation group and wrote down the results, would that be a gang related concern?
That is essentially the same structure of behavior.

In terms of material (escapist fantasy), prisoners have sued for the right to practice Wicca and other religions that have some of the same language as some fantasy RPGs.
As far as clandestine communication, there are far more efficient methods. If they’re interacting at all, they can (and have) develop a coding method. (Plenty of methods to counteract this without the hassle and labor of breaking every single form of code)

Argue fun, rehabilitation, whether punishment is a fundamental aspect of imprisonment and/or prisons may choose to punish however they wish, whatever – bottom line this is an arbitrary ruling because it’s D&D, there’s no two ways about it.

The fact that it’s D&D rather than cards or checkers is irrelevant (and c’mon cards don’t promote potential gambling? Risk or Monopoly can’t lead to competitive hostility?)
Because, taking the “punishment is essential to imprisonment” argument as a given, they could punish him by limiting all recreational activities or rec time or whatever.
If they said 'Poker is ok, but no Gin Rummy for you' it'd be just as silly, albeit probably more widely sympathetic.

And too what he ‘deserves’ is irrelevant. He has rights. Those rights are not there just for him.
So the fact that the law here is arbitrarily exclusionary, yeah, that’s a concern.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:46 PM on January 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


NSFP
posted by Artw at 1:50 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Denying a person recreation that they enjoy is actually pretty goddamn psychologically damaging and makes it difficult for them to relate to other people and to adjust to their surroundings.

Tonight, on "Concepts": Find out why they call it Punishment! And later, don't miss Andy Rooney and a hilarious rant on hyperbole.
posted by Aquaman at 1:51 PM on January 26, 2010


That said, I really want to see this hit the supreme court, especially if we get to hear Sotomeyor talk about D&D.

You say that now...but with our luck it'll somehow affect future election spending. And that's where I put my foot down, I'm not willing to have a president elected on the mere roll of 24 sided regulation dice...especially on ties where a saving throw is needed!
posted by samsara at 1:52 PM on January 26, 2010


“At this point, I'm more willing to take the word of prison officials that there is a legitimate gang related concern over that of a convicted murderer.”

Which is why inmates human rights have never been abused.


Well, when his actual human rights have been abused, we can discuss that.

In the meantime, why don't we talk about how much D&D his victim gets play....

Don't get me wrong, it sucks that this guy loses what could be a very good thing for him over (arguably legitimate) concerns about safety. But then, he CHOSE to put himself there.

Hard to get wound up about that.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:58 PM on January 26, 2010


Reading all the books they want.

I've heard from friends that the selection of books in prison really sucks. It can also be really difficult to get books to people inside, depending on the local regulations. So you may be able to read as much as you want, but all the books might be Dan Brown novels, religious tracts and out of date computer manuals.
posted by electroboy at 2:02 PM on January 26, 2010


You're going to sit here and continue to tell us that this nerdy (and potentially otherwise gentle) guy doesn't deserve the only thing he has left in his life, Pogo?

Yeah, it's totally not this guy's fault that the sister's boyfriend failed his savings throw against blunt weapons.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:04 PM on January 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Don't get me wrong, it sucks that this guy loses access to toothpaste over (arguably legitimate) concerns about safety. But then, he CHOSE to put himself there.

Don't get me wrong, it sucks that this guy loses access to physical exercise over (arguably legitimate) concerns about safety. But then, he CHOSE to put himself there.

Don't get me wrong, it sucks that this guy loses access to books over (arguably legitimate) concerns about safety. But then, he CHOSE to put himself there.

Where does the line get drawn? Why do you recognize the rights of prisoners to physical exercise but not mental?
posted by muddgirl at 2:06 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Tonight, on "Concepts": Find out why they call it Punishment!

See? It's more about the sadistic satisfaction of kicking someone than it is what's actually best for society.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:17 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Risk or Monopoly can’t lead to competitive hostility?

Let them make Diplomacy available to inmates and then we will see some competitive hostility.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:17 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]





Where does the line get drawn? Why do you recognize the rights of prisoners to physical exercise but not mental?

Because he killed somebody. With a sledgehammer. As a result, we the people decided that other people get to make decisions for him about how to use his time. Maybe those decisions suck, but as long as they don't deprive him of basic rights (food, safety, shelter, etc.) I'm not going to feel real sorry for him.

So, yeah, I agree, D&D could have some benefits for him, and in the main is probably harmless enough. But I also agree that prison officials could have concerns about those games and the conduct arising from them and further have a responsibility to address them.

So, he could be playing all the D&D he likes if he had just chosen to not bludgeon somebody to death. Sucks to be him, but I bet it sucks to be his victim more.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:18 PM on January 26, 2010


The full Court Opinion is interesting. The Court doesn't really seem to buy the prison's arguments but they said Singer didn't provide a good enough case. I suspect it would be very difficult to make such a case. And, maybe it's me, but everytime they mention Muraski, the "gang expert", I hear them snickering under their breath.
I don't think enough attention has been paid in this thread to the fact that Singer wrote a 96 page campaign outline that was also seized. Now suppose he had written a novel and they seized it, would you think that's okay? (And, yes, I know that books written by inmates have been seized. I understand that the authorities have that power. What I'm asking is whether you folks talking about prisoners reading books think there is something wrong with creative writing.)
posted by CCBC at 2:19 PM on January 26, 2010


It sucks, but the guy could have, you know, not bludgeoned someone to death with a sledgehammer.

You understand that this affects every prisoner, right, not just people found guilty of bludgeoning someone to death with a sledgehammer? Does the nature of the crime somehow play into this for you? If the prisoner were in prison for mail fraud or embezzlement, would that make a difference?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:22 PM on January 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


No one is asking you to feel sorry for him, Pogo. We're asking you to recognize that the rule is ridiculously discriminatory for no purpose, and provides no justification for why this campaign was seized when it appears that other forms of creative pursuit are OK.

Or, on the other hand, why is Checkers allowed when it is a clear safety concern?
posted by muddgirl at 2:24 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


You understand that this affects every prisoner, right, not just people found guilty of bludgeoning someone to death with a sledgehammer? Does the nature of the crime somehow play into this for you? If the prisoner were in prison for mail fraud or embezzlement, would that make a difference?

Not really.

Here's what I said about that :

"So, yeah, I agree, D&D could have some benefits for him, and in the main is probably harmless enough. But I also agree that prison officials could have concerns about those games and the conduct arising from them and further have a responsibility to address them."

So, yeah, I kind of feel bad for the guy. It must suck to be in prison and not be able to play D&D. Or do much of anything. Sure.

But then, you know, he's there (like almost everyone else there) because he made some decision or series of decisions that put him there.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:29 PM on January 26, 2010


And you resolutely see it in terms of what we can justify doing to him instead of in terms of what actions will lead to the best outcome for anybody.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:34 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


What's that quote? "You can tell a lot about a society by how it treats it's prisoners?"
posted by aspo at 2:35 PM on January 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


We're asking you to recognize that the rule is ridiculously discriminatory for no purpose, and provides no justification for why this campaign was seized when it appears that other forms of creative pursuit are OK.

I don't disagree that prison officials had (have?) some other options here. I think outright banning is probably overboard. But, I also concede that I don't run a prison, and haven't been inside one in some years. So, I'm content to let prison officials decide how to deal with access to role playing materials. I don't think they were out of bounds, even if I would have done differently.

Banning of D&D materials is not a violation of any basic human rights. I think it's a shame, but prison is not summer camp, and he's not there involuntarily. Sucks to be him.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:35 PM on January 26, 2010


Pogo, I'm sorry, but I seriously can't tell if your ignorance is trolling or what. Saying that they know how to run a prison? No. The kind of people who get these types of positions are the types of people who think they know what's best for everyone else. The types of people who enjoy controlling and punishing people for things they deem immoral for xyz reason. Not because they know how to.

He wasn't drunk driving, he didn't murder his family, he wasn't out to get revenge on a fellow D&D player; he murdered a guy that he probably knew was treating his sister wrong. I don't know the details. Neither do you. Legally he's a murderer, but not too long ago if you killed a guy that was beating on your sister you were usually a damn hero.

He wasn't a gang member, so I don't know why you keep trying to throw that line in there. And so what if he was? And so what if he made a huge mistake? He wasn't a repeat offender and he likely had no strikes against him beforehand. He's making the best of his time by trying to engage in something beneficial to not only him, but everyone around him. It's hard for a prison to take these things case-by-case/person-by-person, but for crying out loud.

If what I'm getting from this story is in any way correct, I don't feel that bad for the victim in this scenario. He deserved jail/prison time over a straight up bludgeoning but regardless, he probably wasn't a good person. Maybe I'm different, but I grew up in a very hostile home and spent every day wishing something would happen to that man for what he did. Death, no, but something to make it stop, yes. Sorry for making this personal but if someone came in to save my family from what was going on, I'd be pissed if they tried to stop him from his favorite harmless pastime for the rest of his life. A life he is spending in a concrete cell.

Again, this is assuming they weren't just drunk and got into a fight and that it was far beyond that. But my stance remains.

But the gang members, oh no! How did they get into gangs.. why did they get into gangs? They had no other support system. That's all they knew. So toss some other options in there for them so they can begin to lead productive lives - they're humans too. If you continue treating them as subpar citizens, they're going to continue to engage in subpar life practices. You're sending a good portion of these people back in the real world with even more cynicism and hate than they came in with. How does this not make sense?
posted by june made him a gemini at 2:56 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


"After reviewing the facts of the case, I fine the defendants to be nerds as charged."
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:58 PM on January 26, 2010


"May God have mercy on your souls."
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:59 PM on January 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Pogo_Fuzzybutt : Sucks to be him.

And when we look at the recidivism rates for the people we put into prison and then abdicate any effort to rehabilitate them because 'they made the decision to be there', and we see that the people we put through these grinders come out way worse than they went in?

Yeah, that falls more under "Sucks to be us".
posted by quin at 3:00 PM on January 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


If punishment is the goal, beat the man to death with a hammer. Eye for an eye and all that. But if you're going to be humane and merciful and just, and let the man live and teach him to be a moral person. Arbitrarily banning activities is a power trip, nothing more, and will only teach people to resent the law and not respect it.
posted by Zalzidrax at 3:07 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Court doesn't really seem to buy the prison's arguments but they said Singer didn't provide a good enough case.

This is the section that stood out for me:
they have “demonstrate[d] that [they] could rationally have seen a connection between the policy” and their ultimate penological goals. Wolf v. Ashcroft, 297 F.3d 305, 308 (3d Cir. 2002) (quotations omitted). Singer’s affidavits and briefs were unresponsive to this evidence, and we cannot make his arguments for him. See Vaughn v. King, 167 F.3d 347, 354 (7th Cir. 1999) (“It is not the responsibility of this court to make arguments for the parties.”).
So the story really seems to be "Jailhouse Lawyer Submits Poorly Argued Brief".

I can see how a warden might get twitchy over a game based on organized violence which requires frequent communications with other prisoners and which people tend to get obsessive about, and doesn't necessarily have any rehabilitative elements. Clearly there's a lot of problems with the American prison system with regards to rehabilitation, but I don't necessarily buy the idea that writing hack n' slash fiction is particularly helpful.
posted by electroboy at 3:08 PM on January 26, 2010


So that caused me to actually go read the opinion. It is frustrating when one "expert", which the prison official who crafted the policy and then wrote the only affidavit in support of it is considered, can basically make stuff up and it is considered more valid just because of his position. At the same time the judge specifically notes:

Indeed, his affiants seem
to be talking past Muraski. They fail to respond directly—
or even obliquely—to Muraski’s concern about
D&D players looking to Dungeon Masters, rather than
to the prison’s own carefully constructed hierarchy of
authority, for guidance and dispute resolution.


In my reading, this is where the case failed. Perhaps with better legal guidance he would have put a case together that addressed this viewpoint. At the same time, I'm not impressed by a judge citing rulings that in themselves said D&D was not a factor as support of his position that D&D can be a negative influence.
posted by meinvt at 3:16 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


What would you rather have the inmates doing?
Reading all the books they want.
Mr. Warden, I'd like to read the Dungeon Master's Guide and the Monster Manual, and my friends here would like to read the Player's Handbook.
posted by Flunkie at 3:28 PM on January 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


He wasn't drunk driving, he didn't murder his family, he wasn't out to get revenge on a fellow D&D player; he murdered a guy that he probably knew was treating his sister wrong.
I'm all for letting him play D&D, but statements like this (of which there have been at least a couple in this thread) strike me as absurdly tasteless blaming of the victim.
I don't know the details.
And this makes such statements even worse.
posted by Flunkie at 3:40 PM on January 26, 2010 [2 favorites]



And when we look at the recidivism rates for the people we put into prison and then abdicate any effort to rehabilitate them because 'they made the decision to be there', and we see that the people we put through these grinders come out way worse than they went in?


Well, that's not what I wrote, and it's not what I meant, and that's not what's going on here.

I agree, and said so much earlier, that there is much wrong with the prison system. No doubt.

But this isn't a great example of what is wrong with the prison system unfortunately, and allowing this "hero" (ROFL) access to D&D while most probably harmless, isn't going to do much to help him be successful if he is ever released.

The prison's concerns are valid. Gang activity and violence are known issues in prisons, and reducing that is in everyone's best interests. Whether D&D would contribute to those problems is an open question, and I can understand the prison's reticence to explore those outcomes.

As I wrote (before the part you quoted):

"I don't disagree that prison officials had (have?) some other options here. I think outright banning is probably overboard. But, I also concede that I don't run a prison, and haven't been inside one in some years. So, I'm content to let prison officials decide how to deal with access to role playing materials. I don't think they were out of bounds, even if I would have done differently."
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 3:48 PM on January 26, 2010


june made him a gemini: I'm having a really hard time with your position. I don't know whether this guy specifically should be barred from playing D&D, whether inmates in general should be, or anything in between, I'm still working on that.

But you're describing a truly bizarre world in which first-degree murderers must be misunderstood folk heroes and the warden is always a totalitarian monster. This guy isn't a nerdy and potentially otherwise gentle devoted D&D player, he's a first-degree murderer; that's the only thing either of us know about him. There aren't too many more serious crimes on the books than that, and most of those require a trial in the Hague. First-degree murder isn't getting drunk and accidentally killing a guy during a fight. You're smart enough to know that, and it's really disingenuous to imply otherwise.

Is the system fucked up? Absolutely. Would I prefer a system built more around socialization, education, and rehabilitation, with just a little less racism thrown in for good measure? Yes, I would. But it does not therefore follow that all inmates are unjustly imprisoned or that the curtailing of their activities is therefore fascistic. It may be that this particular curtailing is excessive, and that's certainly worth this discussion, but your division of parties into the oppressed well-meaning nerd murderer versus the unyielding state is really stark and kind of crazy.
posted by Errant at 4:14 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


My favorite Paladin character was a mentally unbalanced fanatic who believed Helm spoke to him PERSONALLY (and possibly he *was* Helm) and all other Paladins are corrupt and decadent. god-given righteousness plus homicidal religious extremism and all the crazy laws of his new faith he made up on the spot.

RIPPED FROM THE HEADLINES
posted by Evilspork at 4:43 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Lack of D&D does not create soul-destroying torment. How did you not feel foolish writing that sentence?

What do people mean by soul-destroying? Would some injunction against religious expression threaten the soul? If we would say yes, then we must find some meaningful distinctions - not merely legal ones - between D&D and acts of religious expression. D&D is a system of fictive improvisation, a set of jigsawed archetypes and ripped motifs from dozens of mythologies, laid into an order against the tensions of thrown dice. It's an act of semi-randomized, collaborative storytelling. And what exactly is a Tarot deck, then, or a Taoist permutation, or a jazz funeral?
posted by kid ichorous at 4:59 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


164 comments and no one has made the joke about their real concern being that he'll put all his skill points into Open Lock?
posted by Pallas Athena at 5:20 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's 3rd edition talk.
posted by Artw at 5:25 PM on January 26, 2010


Can we send this poor son of a bitch some D&D books? Maybe if the jail gets swamped with books from people, they'll rethink their policy.

NERDS UNITE
posted by empath at 7:13 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


We should find an old copy of GURPS Cyberpunk on eBay.
posted by Artw at 7:40 PM on January 26, 2010


Pretty sure I have an extra Fiend Folio around here. Also I agree with Pope Guilty as usual and am glad his rhetorical opponent Pogo Fuzzybutt has a similar inverted eponohysterism to his comments - here we have an antipontiff preaching compassion and reason, and a furry, big-eyed cartoon character acting like a hanging judge. Never had any relatives in stir, Fuzzybutt? People end up in prison for all sorts of reasons, and bad acts in the middle of good lives happen just as good acts are sometimes done by grade-A heels.
posted by jtron at 7:41 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


People end up in prison for all sorts of reasons, and bad acts in the middle of good lives happen just as good acts are sometimes done by grade-A heels.

This. Yep. I have a dear friend serving 17-30 for 2nd Degree Murder, a very serious charge, and I can assure you, he is not a monster. In many ways, he is one of the most empathetic people I've ever met, who always had a genuine interest in his friends' feelings and problems. Always there to lend an ear, cash if he had it, whatever. He always tried to make people feel better when he could tell they were hurting. He pulled an unconscious girl from a burning car once, a stranger, and saved her life.

But, as a drug addict, he put himself in a very bad place at a very bad time. While high on crack and heroin, his sociopathic drug buddy convinced him that they should break into an acquaintance's home and steal his safe. Fucked up--I agree--but you can imagine their desperate, junk-sick fantasies of having enough money to feed these horrible cravings, to not have to keep hustling all the time and going through vicious withdrawals. They thought the guy was loaded (he wasn't). Of course this isn't any kind of excuse, just an explanation of what happened.

Just breaking-in was bad enough, but what happened next was truly tragic. The victim came home during the robbery and threatened my friend's life, so the story goes, with a pistol. Next thing you know, the sociopath wrestled him to the ground, and began strangling the poor man, while my friend looked on in horror, not knowing what to do. He should have done something to stop it, but he said he felt paralyzed at the time--stunned. He couldn't believe what was happening. He was horrified, but he fled town with his "friend" afterward. I wish he hadn't. He wishes he hadn't. But wishing doesn't make it so. They were pretty quickly apprehended.

Now, because I have this friend (he is, in fact, an ex-boyfriend), the issue of what prison is for is a kind of a personal one. Here's someone I knew for years to be as gentle and as caring as people come, locked in a cage for at least 17 years, and I wonder: to what end? I think some punishment is appropriate, but one that actually benefits society, in the long run. That must involve some kind of rehabilitation.

I honestly don't think the world is safer with him in there for such a long time, though some of you might. It seems like an absurd waste of resources. I worry very much about how will he fit back into society when he is finally released.

He's an avid reader, always was. Very literate. Big fan of D&D. He told me a while ago that he is still managing to retain his identity and his hope for the future, after 2 yrs in, but he is wondering what will be left of him 15 years from now. Right now he has a TV in his cell that he can watch all the time. I'm guessing his struggle to remain a dignified, engaged, hopeful human being would be better served by playing some lively rounds of D&D than by watching TV all day, as he's been doing. I think society, as a whole, is better served to have a prisoner emerge from prison dignified, engaged and hopeful, rather than debased, dehumanized and broken.

But that's just me.
posted by apis mellifera at 9:01 PM on January 26, 2010 [11 favorites]


Am I the only one waiting for someone to make an FPP about television restrictions in prisons, only to be greeted with a chorus of "Is this a form of heinous oppression I'd need a TV to understand?"?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:16 PM on January 26, 2010


Pogo Fuzzybutt:
No, the people of the State of Wisconsin determined that he should be imprisoned for his crime.

Your argument consists, basically, of saying "He is a prisoner and thus bad things should happen to him" combined with "D&D is a bad influence." The first is tiresome and idiotic, the second should be thoroughly debunked by now. Thus, I can only conclude that you are trolling.

In prison, sometimes they have to restrict ordinary things in order to guarantee the safety of the prisoners and the people who guard them.

"Warden, he hit me with Prismatic Spray!"

Again, we aren't talking about summer camp, or even county jail, here. We're talking about murderers and thugs. People who in the past have not exercised good judgement (a cold blooded murder by sledgehammer... ).

We have tried everything short of it to get through to you, so I will go the final step and say it directly:

EVEN BEING A COLD-BLOODED MURDERER DOES NOT GIVE THE STATE MORAL CARTE BLANCHE TO DO ANYTHING THEY LIKE TO YOU. To argue that it does is literally Draconian.

I hate to go back to first principles here, but it looks like it is warranted. What do you say is the purpose of punishment?

The prison officials were concerned about "competitive hostility, violence, addictive escape behaviors, and possible gambling" and those concerns are legitimate. I've played D&D (and paranoia, rifts, TW2000 and so on) a great dea, so yeah, I can see that. Especially the competitiveness.

Most role-playing games other than Paranoia (including recent editions of D&D) are actually cooperative.

I don't necessarily agree that it has to be banned.

You fooled me. In fact, I'm still not convinced.

There are other ways to address those concerns. But they know how to run a prison better than I do, and a ban is not an unreasonable approach in light of those concerns.

There are all kinds of situations in our society where people who should know how to do something well do not. Our prison system is full of them. You would perhaps argue that we shouldn't second-guess their decision, but if we did not ever question whether they were fit we would not be able to be sure. We wouldn't be questioning, anyway, except that we had heard of a report that sounds exactly like the kind of situation that demands that question.

It sucks, but the guy could have, you know, not bludgeoned someone to death with a sledgehammer.

People are falsely convicted all the time, you know. Not saying this guy definitely was (I add this because judging from your behavior up-thread you are ready and waiting to claim that I was and respond to me as if I were), but it is not outside the realm of possibility. And even if he is guilty, there is an array of extenuating circumstances and judgement calls made by our legal system in sentencing many crimes. The situation is a hell of a lot more complex than you depict it as being.
posted by JHarris at 2:05 AM on January 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


Someone here should have written an Amicus brief. You have all failed the Criminal Justice System!

Fed. R. App. P. 29:

(a) When Permitted.
The United States or its officer or agency, or a State, Territory, Commonwealth, or the District of Columbia may file an amicus-curiae brief without the consent of the parties or leave of court. Any other amicus curiae may file a brief only by leave of court or if the brief states that all parties have consented to its filing.

posted by Pollomacho at 5:52 AM on January 27, 2010


I'm all for letting him play D&D, but statements like this (of which there have been at least a couple in this thread) strike me as absurdly tasteless blaming of the victim.

I think there's two things at work:

1. A lot of people on mefi have good experiences playing D&D and identify with the guy in that respect. People tend to believe that someone who shares their interests are good people.

2. Creative outlets are generally "good" and will have a positive effect on the prisoner.

There was a lot of this with the whole Hans Reiser thing (introverted programmer is misunderstood), and pre-internet with Jack Henry Abbott. You can be creative person and still be a rapist or a murderer.
posted by electroboy at 7:27 AM on January 27, 2010



EVEN BEING A COLD-BLOODED MURDERER DOES NOT GIVE THE STATE MORAL CARTE BLANCHE TO DO ANYTHING THEY LIKE TO YOU. To argue that it does is literally Draconian.

I hate to go back to first principles here, but it looks like it is warranted. What do you say is the purpose of punishment?


First, I never, ever, said that the state has carte blanche to do whatever they wanted to. Not at all. You made that up or read it in or whatever, but I didn't say it. If you want to tilt against that windmill, knock yourself out, but don't pretend I had anything to do with it.

Second, prison is about incarceration. Part of the point of incarceration is that other people (wardens, guards, parole boards, etc.) get to make decisions for the person so incarcerated. Decisions such as what to eat, and when to sleep, and what to do with the free time they have.

So, this guy doesn't get to go for moonlight walks on the beach, or tailgate at the packers game, or even really choose what to watch on TV. Apparently, he's also not allowed to have D&D, either. These are all entirely reasonable and appropriate restrictions during incarceration.

As I said, it's not the decision I might have made, but, I can see how they got there and it is reasonable. A court agreed that it is reasonable. Penny arcade thinks that it's reasonable.

This is the point I've been trying to make, and maybe I've not been clear. I feel like I've been clear. It doesn't seem like I should have to explain this to you, but your reading comprehension so far sucks.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:45 AM on January 27, 2010


I have to say I'm amused by an appeal to authority using Penny Arcade as the authority.
posted by electroboy at 7:54 AM on January 27, 2010


This is the point I've been trying to make, and maybe I've not been clear. I feel like I've been clear. It doesn't seem like I should have to explain this to you, but your reading comprehension so far sucks.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt


They aren't having trouble comprehending, they just disagree with you.
posted by haveanicesummer at 8:13 AM on January 27, 2010


I have to say I'm amused by an appeal to authority using Penny Arcade as the authority.
Especially as Penny Arcade's argument does boil down to "he is a bad person, so whatever the prison does to him is a-ok."
posted by Karmakaze at 10:02 AM on January 27, 2010


Penny arcade thinks that it's reasonable.

Where did you get that idea? The entire relevant passage is:

The story about a prisoner deprived of his Dungeon Master's Guide and custom campaign world resonated. It sucks when the guards are all coming down on your shit, and, like, taking your stuff, but it also sucks pretty bad to be beaten to death with a sledgehammer, which is what this guy did to get in there. Tends to dilute the sympathy.

The writer's sympathy is diluted. That's all he's said on the matter.
posted by ODiV at 10:06 AM on January 27, 2010


Or maybe we compromise and only let them play games that are sort of unpleasant and teach community values, like Arkham Horror.

I can't believe I played FOUR FULL GAMES of that over a week long trip to mammoth over new years.

FOUR. FULL. GAMES.

I think we were playing Arkham for more than a whole day, all told.
posted by flaterik at 5:34 PM on January 27, 2010


Pogo Fuzzybutt: First, I never, ever, said that the state has carte blanche to do whatever they wanted to. Not at all. You made that up or read it in or whatever, but I didn't say it. If you want to tilt against that windmill, knock yourself out, but don't pretend I had anything to do with it.

While your arguing style is hyperbolic and distasteful, you may be right about your view not being as extreme as I stated. It is sometimes difficult to keep everything straight in the process of following the thread, and I should apologize for that. Sorry. We do seem to still have a major difference of opinion about the purpose of jail sentences, however. And it is hard to rein in hyperbole when you have engaged in a fair amount of it yourself. To wit:

So, this guy doesn't get to go for moonlight walks on the beach, or tailgate at the packers game, or even really choose what to watch on TV. Apparently, he's also not allowed to have D&D, either. These are all entirely reasonable and appropriate restrictions during incarceration.

There is a difference between the things you choose for comparison and this one. They aren't all outlawed for the same reasons.

* Walking on the beach and tailgating are not possible in prison, for the fact that they require being outside.

* Choosing what to watch on TV is generally, in my understanding, controlled because TV is a limited resource that must be shared among the inmates. There are only so many sets to go around.

* D&D is an activity carried out among the inmates involving books, writing materials, dice and imagination alone.

I don't think any of us are arguing that a prisoner has a right to Dungeons & Dragons. But their reasons for confiscating the books are ludicrous and smack heavily of the hysteria that surrounded the game in the 80s, and in some circles, believe it or not, still persists today.

I would be surprised if the reasons given by the prison officials were the real reasons, because the ones they gave demonstrate clearly that they do not understand the game; that seems to indicate they are presented as a smokescreen, and they have never actually researched the game and instead are going by some preconceived notion. This is behavior that I would hope men in authority would not engage in.

Further, that this case made it to the courts indicates that there are some protected activities that prisoners are allowed to engage in; otherwise, why would the officials have had to give reasons? That being the case, the wardens have given bogus reasons for restricting the game, and thus their forbidding of it is injustice.

REGARDLESS of what Penny Arcade has said. I mean come on, those dorks like 4E.
posted by JHarris at 7:12 PM on January 27, 2010


So we've got a devoted D&D player who was likely under some sort of impression that his sister was being abused so he killed the guy doing it. You're going to sit here and continue to tell us that this nerdy (and potentially otherwise gentle) guy doesn't deserve the only thing he has left in his life, Pogo [...] He wasn't drunk driving, he didn't murder his family, he wasn't out to get revenge on a fellow D&D player; he murdered a guy that he probably knew was treating his sister wrong. I don't know the details...
posted by june made him a gemini
I believe that last part. It actually seems like a pretty interesting, albeit incredibly sad, case. All of this stuff was found on the HighBeam Research site, which means you have to pony up the dough for more than just the intros to the articles, or sign up for the Trial Membership, which is probably not a great idea.

Anyhoo:


December 15, 2001 - A Madison man, charged Friday with trying to kill his pregnant sister, is also accused of killing an Indiana man Wednesday over a broken window. Kevin T. Singer, 25, allegedly used a hammer and kitchen knife to kill Steven M. Young, 44, before striking Young's girlfriend, Carrie L. Singer, 22, with the hammer. Young died Wednesday night at University Hospital about 90 minutes after the attack. An autopsy Thursday revealed Young died from three blows to the head and two stab wounds to the back. Carrie Singer, Kevin Singer's sister, was taken to Meriter Hospital for treatment of injuries...

...

Singer, who was released from a state prison in February, became angry... [About the window, presumably]

August 20, 2002 - The murder of a Madison man may have come about because of an argument over the proceeds of a bank theft in Milton, a prosecutor says... Although court records say Singer and Young had argued over a broken window in Kevin Singer's apartment just before the murder, Assistant District Attorney John Burr offered another scenario in court Monday.

September 4, 2002 - Jurors in a Dane County murder case next week can hear how a blackmail threat over a bank robbery -- and not a broken window -- was the motive for a murder on Madison's West Side in December. In a written ruling Tuesday, Circuit Judge David Flanagan said prosecutors can present testimony from a woman that her brother, Kevin Singer, killed her boyfriend after her boyfriend threatened to report Singer to police for a Milton bank robbery. Carrie Singer had originally told police that her brother killed Steven Young after he and Young argued over a window that Young had broken.

September 10, 2002 - It was Kevin Singer's sister who stabbed and bludgeoned an Indiana man to death at a West Side apartment, Singer's attorney said Monday as Singer's trial began. In his opening statement, Kevin Singer's attorney, Jack Hoag, said his client came home Dec. 12 to find that Carrie Singer had killed her boyfriend, Steven Young. Kevin Singer, 26, is on trial for Young's murder and for attempting to kill his 23-year-old sister with a blow to the head. He is also charged with first-degree reckless injury and theft from a corpse. The trial is expected to last through Friday.

September 11, 2002 - The sister of an accused killer on trial this week withstood accusations Tuesday from her brother's attorney that she changed her story to bolster the case against her brother. Carrie Singer, sister of murder defendant Kevin Singer, described Tuesday how her brother fought with her boyfriend, Steven Young, over a window at his Gilbert Road apartment that Young had broken on Dec. 12. Then she described how she saw her brother stab and bludgeon Young to death.

...

Prosecutors were expected to finish their case against accused killer Kevin Singer today, but whether Singer would take the witness stand in his own defense remained to be seen. Assistant District Attorneys John Burr and Karie Cattanach have called more that two dozen witnesses in making their case against Singer... Carrie Singer testified Tuesday that her brother killed Young after an argument about proceeds from a bank heist pulled by Singer...

September 12, 2002 - Prosecutors rested their case against accused killer Kevin Singer on Wednesday after using DNA evidence they say linked him to the death of Steven Young. Singer, 26, is accused of stabbing and bludgeoning Young, 44, at Singer's apartment on Gilbert Road last Dec. 12 after an argument over splitting proceeds from a bank robbery in Milton two days earlier. Singer, who may take the witness stand today, blames his sister, Carrie, 23, for the murder and says when he arrived home that day Carrie came out of his apartment and told him they had to leave and later told him she had killed Young, her boyfriend.
...
Accused killer Kevin Singer took the witness stand to emphatically deny that he did it, followed by his mother, who said she thought her daughter was the killer. The testimony provided a bizarre ending to three days of testimony in which the prosecution sought to show that Singer, 26, stabbed and bludgeoned Steven Young, 44, after they argued about the loot from a bank robbery in Milton. Steven Young was the boyfriend of Singer's sister, Carrie, 23, who testified earlier in the trial that her brother killed Young with a knife and a hammer after Young said he wanted some of the money from the bank robbery...

September 13, 2002 - The mother of Kevin Singer, the man accused of killing an Indiana man last year, said Thursday that she thinks her daughter, not her son, committed the crime. But Margaret Singer's version of events that followed the stabbing and bludgeoning death of Steven Young differed a great deal from that offered by her son in his own testimony Thursday.

...

Jurors will be asked to sort out the divergent stories they have heard from a Madison family about the death of Steven Young and who killed him... But the question of who killed him depends largely on whom one believes.

September 14, 2002 - A jury Friday found Kevin Singer guilty of the murder of Steven Young, but acquitted him of trying to murder his sister and of robbing Young after he was killed. After listening to three days of contradictory testimony from members of the Singer family, the Dane County jury deliberated about three hours Friday before deciding that Carrie Singer, 23, was more believable than her brother and mother. Young, 44, was Carrie's boyfriend and was savagely beaten and stabbed in Kevin Singer's apartment last Dec. 12. Young was stabbed twice in the back, including once in which the attacker twisted the blade...


December 4, 2002 - A Madison man who last year stabbed and bludgeoned to death his sister's boyfriend was told Tuesday that he won't be eligible for parole until he is 88 years old. Kevin Singer, 26, was convicted in September in the death of Steven Young, 41, of Gary, Ind. He was also convicted of first-degree reckless injury for striking his sister, Carrie Singer, with a hammer at his Gilbert Road apartment on Dec. 12. As Singer left a Dane County courtroom Tuesday afternoon, Young's sister-in-law, Jenny Basem, shouted after him.

"I hope you rot in hell," she said. "I hope someone gets you in prison, too."

January 8, 2003 - A Madison man was sentenced to 10 years in prison Monday in Rock County Circuit Court on a theft charge. The sentence won't add any time to his prison term of at least 62 years on murder and assault charges because the judge ordered the sentences served concurrently. Kevin Singer, 26, was sentenced in Dane County for the December 2001 stabbing death of Steven Young, 44, of Indiana. Young was Singer's sister's boyfriend. Singer stabbed Young and struck his sister, Carrie Singer, 22, with a hammer after the two heard about money Kevin ... [had from the bank heist, presumably]
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:56 PM on January 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


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