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. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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