No dice: Inmate loses appeal over prison’s D&D ban

Books Gaming RPGs

3615156014_778a77c156Critical fumble! A federal appeals court has denied a man serving a life sentence in prison the right to play Dungeons & Dragons — because the fantasy roleplaying game apparently promotes gang-related activity.

By the mighty beard of Odin, that’s one geeky gang!

Kevin T. Singer filed a lawsuit against a Wisconsin prison, claiming that his rights to free speech and due process were being violated by a policy banning all D&D game material behind bars. He was convicted of first-degree intentional homicide and in 2002 was sentenced to spend life in prison for the sledgehammer killing of his sister’s boyfriend. (One has to wonder if it was with an enchanted Dwarven sledgehammer …)

According to The Associated Press, the ban dates back to 2004, when an anonymous inmate sent a letter expressing concern about Singer and three others forming a “gang” for the purpose of playing the game — otherwise known in most corners of civilization as an adventuring party or gaming group. Officials told him he couldn’t keep his gaming materials — including dozens of D&D books and magazines as well as a 96-page homebrew adventure scenario — because, according to the ruling, the game “promotes fantasy role playing, competitive hostility, violence, addictive escape behaviors, and possible gambling.”

Huzzah! Nevermore shall anyone engage in violence or gambling or dream of escape when incarcerated!

In their modified Wisdom, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday ruled that the policy was reasonable and did not violate Singer’s rights (even though it was specifically created to deny him, in particular, those rights, which seems fishy — but we’ll overlook that). Prison is, after all, about punishment, as the court explained in its ruling.

Looks like it’s back to traditional prison roleplaying activities …

Image credit: castlelogical on Flickr (used under a Creative Commons license)

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Jayson Peters
Digital, social and print media pro. Nerdvana's founder, curator and editor.