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. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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