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Monday, February 26, 2024 | Back issues
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Court Upholds Prison Ban on Dungeons & Dragons

(CN) - A Wisconsin prison can ban inmates from playing the fantasy role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons, the 7th Circuit ruled.

A three-judge panel in Chicago rejected inmate Kevin T. Singer's claim that the ban on the popular game violated his constitutional rights to free speech, due process and equal protection.

Singer, a D&D player since childhood, challenged the ban after guards at the Waupun Correctional Institution confiscated his D&D materials, including 21 books, 14 magazines and a 96-page handwritten manuscript he'd created for the game.

Prison officials had imposed the ban after receiving an anonymous letter from an inmate who was worried that Singer and three other inmates were forming a D&D "gang."

Capt. Bruce Muraski, the prison's expert on gang activity, decided to "check into this gang before it gets out of hand," the ruling states. He searched the cells of the alleged D&D gang members and confiscated their D&D materials.

Muraski told Singer that inmates could no longer play the game, "because it promotes fantasy role playing, competitive hostility, violence, addictive escape behaviors, and possible gambling."

The district court granted summary judgment to prison officials, and Singer argued that his First Amendment claim should have survived. He said the infringement on his rights was not "reasonably related" to the prison's penological interest. He submitted 15 affidavits -- from other inmates, his brother and three role-playing game experts -- denying any connection between D&D and gang activity.

Writing for the appellate panel, Judge John Tinder said the ban is not as "unyieldingly categorical as Singer makes it out to be," suggesting alternative strategy games like Risk and chess.

In the judges' view, the ban served two legitimate prison interests: maintaining security and promoting inmate rehabilitation.

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