Dungeons and Dragons Banned in Prison
Now, why would a game that’s generally considered a tame and relaxing form of entertainment that helps to utilize imagination and cooperation be banned from prisons?No one wants to end up in prison. The prisons have the ability to restrict the rights of the inmates in a number of different ways. One that many people didn’t expect was the fact that the prison system has decided that the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons was too dangerous for the inmates to play, so they wanted to ban it. The decision to ban the game was appealed, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld the banning.
No Orcs or Elves for You
Kevin T. Singer, a prisoner, felt that banning the game, as well as the confiscation of his books and materials, and a manuscript he wrote for the game, was a violation of his First Amendment and 14h Amendment rights. Singer, who had always enjoyed the game, is serving life in prison for bludgeoning and stabbing to death his sister’s boyfriend in 2002.
They decided that they would ban the game because it has the potential to “inhibit prison security”. They explained that they felt “Cooperative games can mimic the organizations of gangs and lead to actual development thereof.”
Captain Bruce Muraski of the Waupun Correctional Institute of Wisconsin went on to say that, “During D&D games, one player is denoted as the Dungeon Master, and they give directions to the other players, which mimic the organization of a gang.” While that’s not exactly how the game works, it does get the gist of it correct. The game does emphasize teamwork and people working together to achieve a goal. The courts felt that this could translate to gang activity increasing in the prison.
Most of the people who play roleplaying games are not likely interested in gang activity, even those who are in prison. Many people use it as a form of escapism, and that’s one of the reasons that prisoners likely enjoyed the game. They could be someone else, and in their mind, they could be out of the prison.
However, the prisons and the courts see this as dangerous, as they believe that it could foster hostility, violence, and make some of the prisoners actually try to escape to get back into the real world. They also felt that it could make rehabilitation more difficult, and that it could endanger public safety.
The court did say that there was no actual evidence of gangs created because of the game, and that there had not been an uptick in the violence. However, they still believe that the best decision was to ban the game and materials. It does make some experts wonder what else they might ban in the future. For example, one legal blog had a post by Ilya Somin, a professor of law at George Mason University. The blog posed the question of what they will ban next, such as The Count of Monte Cristo because it might encourage escape attempts.