Connecticut Defends Prison Porn Ban as Boon to Female Staff

The Second Circuit seemed leery Monday about the push to strike down a 2012 ban against sexually explicit images as unconstitutional.

(Image by kconcha from Pixabay via Courthouse News)

MANHATTAN (CN) — Conceding Monday that his case is not an easy one to make, a lawyer for Connecticut prisoners unable to collect their Playboy subscriptions argued that the state has only anecdotal evidence that its pornography ban made prisons a less hostile workplace for female staff.

Several female staff members testified to this perception, but Joseph Scully with the firm Day Pitney emphasized that preexisting policies already set punishments for any inmate who hung nude photos on his cell walls or made lewd comments to female staff.

“There is no testimony that directly links pornography to the hostile work environment,” said Scully, who represents the inmates pro bono.

A three-judge panel of the Manhattan-based Second Circuit heard the inmates’ appeal remotely, as has been the standard for the pandemic since last year. Clare Kindall, representing the state Department of Corrections, urged the court to affirm dismissal, noting that inmates still have access to non-nude images and reading materials.

“Erotica is still available to Connecticut inmates,” said Kindall. “They can also view Victoria’s Secret catalogs and Sports Illustrated.”

Female employees should not be subjected to seeing porn at work, she added. “In no other instance would we be arguing if nudity and pornography should be present in a workplace,” Kindall said. 

In an email after the hearing, Elizabeth Benton, a representative for the Corrections Department, noted that seven other circuit courts have upheld similar bans.

“The trial court properly found the prohibition against pornography in the prisons was a lawful measure to protect the safety and rights of inmates and those who work in the prisons,” Benton said in an email. 

Though many other courts have indeed upheld bans similar to Connecticut’s, an Iowa judge in one such case ordered state prisons in 2019 to let inmates possess nonsexual nude images.

Prior to instituting its ban in 2012, Connecticut allowed inmates to order sexually explicit publications such as Playboy, and to be in possession of sexually explicit photos with minimal restrictions. 

In addition to claiming that the ban of such imagery ensures the safety of female workers, the state Department of Corrections says that allowing pornography in prisons hindered the rehabilitation of sex offenders.

Several inmates filed suit a year later under the First Amendment, but a federal judge upheld the state’s ban in March 2020.

Attorney Scully declined to comment on the matter. 

The panel that heard Monday’s appeal consisted of U.S. Circuit Judges Joseph Bianco, Amalya Kearse and Jose Cabranes, represented by Trump, Carter and Clinton, respectively.

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