Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Fantasy Prisoners

The Seventh Circuit has upheld a prison's decision to ban the game "Dungeons and Dragons" among inmates. The prison adopted a rule against the game because it "promotes fantasy role playing, competitive hostility, violence, addictive escape behaviors, and possible gambling.”

Sheesh. As Ilya Somin points out over at the Volokh Conspiracy, The Count of Monte Cristo could give rise to escape behaviors. Football encourages organized, competitive hostility.

Without necessarily disagreeing with the court's decision that there is no constitutional right to play Dungeons and Dragons in prison, I would have to say that this prison rule seems over the top and also seems to be a continuation of standard, unverified cliches about the dangers of this form of game. I haven't played D&D for decades, but I used to play when I was in high school and certainly my group never had any difficulties confusing the advisability of fantasy violence with that of real violence.

Of all things, the prison said it was concerned about D&D, not just because of the fantasy violence involved, but because the game involves cooperative behavior: the prison was concerned "about cooperative activity among inmates, particularly that carried out in an organized, hierarchical fashion." Such organized, cooperative activity can be the basis of forming a prison gang, the prison officials said.

My goodness, what if one of the prisoners organizes a book group and instructs the members on which book to read for the next meeting? Does the prison forbid that?

Maybe it does, but I doubt it.

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