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. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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