Role playing, gang banging

January 28, 2010
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Typical gang activity: fighting opposing gang members, committing crime, and playing Dungeons and Dragons. Wait, what?

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals said so in an opinion it released this week in an inmate’s appeal after his D&D games were taken away because of the fear it was a gang activity and would promote inmates to behave badly.

Seriously? I know prison officials want to prevent any kind of disruptive or dangerous behavior, but have they ever played the game, or any other role-playing game before? Anyone who has ever played D&D (and I admit I did once, as a child in the ’80s) knows it’s a fairly harmless game in which people spend time strategizing about what type of character they want to be, their powers, and create a fantasy world in which these elves, wizards, and other characters interact under the direction of a Dungeon Master. It may get heated in moments of battles, but I doubt punches are thrown because of it.

A prison in Wisconsin banned the game because it said it promotes violence, hostility, fantasy role playing, addictive escape behaviors, and possible gambling. The prisoner’s appeal of that decision made it to the 7th Circuit, which affirmed summary judgment for the prison. Apparently the inmate’s oodles of affidavit testimony that D&D isn’t associated with gangs and the game can help improve inmate rehabilitation didn’t show a genuine issue of material fact concerning the reasonableness of the relationship between the prison’s ban and legitimate penological interests.

Prison is supposed to be a punishment, not a vacation, but taking away outlets for prisoners to occupy their minds or pass the time seems like a bad idea. I think D&D is pretty tame, and anyone who gets caught up in it and believes the fantasy world is telling them to injure or kill someone in real life obviously has mental issues that preclude any involvement with the game. Plus, those inmates looking for a reason to fight will do so over anything.

Do the prison’s assumptions on D&D apply to the non-prison world? I imagine most people who play the game in their homes, at conventions, or in stores do so in part because of the fantasy world and escapism it provides. It’s intriguing and thrilling to make up a character and become that person, even if for a few hours. Hey, actors get paid to do that.

The only negatives I can find with playing D&D is perhaps getting too caught up in your fantasy world and not getting enough social interaction in other settings or exercise, but I’d never consider it anywhere close to a gang activity. That is, unless I start seeing D&D players dressing in their specific gang colors and having turf wars with other D&D groups.
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  1. It's a big fat black mark against the US that they radicalized a lot of these Afghan jihadis in the 80s to fight the soviets and then when they predictably got around to biting the hand that fed them, the US had to invade their homelands, install a bunch of corrupt drug kingpins and kleptocrats, take these guys and torture the hell out of them. Why for example did the US have to sodomize them? Dubya said "they hate us for our freedoms!" Here, try some of that freedom whether you like it or not!!! Now they got even more reasons to hate us-- lets just keep bombing the crap out of their populations, installing more puppet regimes, arming one faction against another, etc etc etc.... the US is becoming a monster. No wonder they hate us. Here's my modest recommendation. How about we follow "Just War" theory in the future. St Augustine had it right. How about we treat these obvious prisoners of war according to the Geneva convention instead of torturing them in sadistic and perverted ways.

  2. As usual, John is "spot-on." The subtle but poignant points he makes are numerous and warrant reflection by mediators and users. Oh but were it so simple.

  3. ACLU. Way to step up against the police state. I see a lot of things from the ACLU I don't like but this one is a gold star in its column.... instead of fighting it the authorities should apologize and back off.

  4. Duncan, It's called the RIGHT OF ASSOCIATION and in the old days people believed it did apply to contracts and employment. Then along came title vii.....that aside, I believe that I am free to work or not work for whomever I like regardless: I don't need a law to tell me I'm free. The day I really am compelled to ignore all the facts of social reality in my associations and I blithely go along with it, I'll be a slave of the state. That day is not today......... in the meantime this proposed bill would probably be violative of 18 usc sec 1981 that prohibits discrimination in contracts... a law violated regularly because who could ever really expect to enforce it along the millions of contracts made in the marketplace daily? Some of these so-called civil rights laws are unenforceable and unjust Utopian Social Engineering. Forcing people to love each other will never work.

  5. I am the father of a sweet little one-year-old named girl, who happens to have Down Syndrome. To anyone who reads this who may be considering the decision to terminate, please know that your child will absolutely light up your life as my daughter has the lives of everyone around her. There is no part of me that condones abortion of a child on the basis that he/she has or might have Down Syndrome. From an intellectual standpoint, however, I question the enforceability of this potential law. As it stands now, the bill reads in relevant part as follows: "A person may not intentionally perform or attempt to perform an abortion . . . if the person knows that the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion solely because the fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome or a potential diagnosis of Down syndrome." It includes similarly worded provisions abortion on "any other disability" or based on sex selection. It goes so far as to make the medical provider at least potentially liable for wrongful death. First, how does a medical provider "know" that "the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion SOLELY" because of anything? What if the woman says she just doesn't want the baby - not because of the diagnosis - she just doesn't want him/her? Further, how can the doctor be liable for wrongful death, when a Child Wrongful Death claim belongs to the parents? Is there any circumstance in which the mother's comparative fault will not exceed the doctor's alleged comparative fault, thereby barring the claim? If the State wants to discourage women from aborting their children because of a Down Syndrome diagnosis, I'm all for that. Purporting to ban it with an unenforceable law, however, is not the way to effectuate this policy.

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