In this case decided in 2010, a prisoner had his Dungeons and Dragons material confiscated and was prevented from engaging in gameplay or possessing the book materials. This Court of Appeals affirmed. There are no first amendment rights to play dungeon and dragons in prison. The Court cites to Meyer v Branker (Ninjalaw 68) amongst other cases that legitimize a claim that D&D can lead to unhealthy fantasy-seeking escapist-behaviors, at least in some people. Therefore the government prison has a legitimate interest in banning the content.
KEVIN T. SINGER, Plaintiff-Appellant,
RICHARD RAEMISCH, * PHILLIP KINGSTON, BRUCE C. MURASK I, and MARC J. MASSIE, Defendants-Appellees.
* Pursuant to Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 43(c)(2), Richard Raemisch, the current Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, is automatically substituted for former Secretary Matthew J. Frank.
COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT
593 F.3d 529
2010 U.S. App. LEXIS 1506
Argued September 18, 2009
Decided January 25, 2010
Before Chief Judge Easterbrook and Circuit Judges Williams and Tinder
Opinion by Circuit Judge Tinder:
After concluding that the popular role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons (“D&D”) represented a threat to prison security, officials at Wisconsin’s Waupun Correctional Institution took action to eradicate D&D within the prison’s walls. Inmate Kevin T. Singer found himself on the front lines of Waupun’s war on D&D when prison officials confiscated a large quantity of D&D-related publications from his cell. Singer sought relief from the prison’s new regulations–and the return of his D&D materials–through the prison’s complaint system, a pursuit which ultimately proved fruitless. Singer then brought this action against a variety of prison officials pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He alleged that Waupun’s confiscation of his D&D materials and imposition of a ban on D&D play violated his First Amendment right to free speech and his Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process and equal protection. The prison officials moved for summary judgment on all of Singer’s claims, and the district court granted their motion in full. Singer appeals the grant of summary judgment with respect to his First Amendment claims, and we affirm.
Kevin T. Singer is an inmate at Wisconsin’s Waupun Correctional Institution. He is also a devoted player of D&D, a fantasy role-playing game in which players collectively develop a story around characters whose personae they adopt. Singer has been a D&D enthusiast since childhood and over time has acquired numerous D&D-related publications. His enthusiasm for D&D is such that he has handwritten a ninety-six page manuscript outlining the specific details of a “campaign setting” he developed for use in D&D gameplay. Footnote #1: A typical D&D game is made up of an “adventure,” or single story that players develop as a group. A related series of games and adventures becomes a “campaign.” The fictional locations in which the adventures and campaigns take place–ranging in size and complexity from cities to entire universes–are called “campaign settings.” For more information about D&D and D&D gameplay, see Wizards of the Coast, What is D&D?, http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/whatisdnd (last visited Jan. 20, 2010).
Singer’s devotion to D&D was unwavering during his incarceration at Waupun. He frequently ordered D&D publications and game materials by mail and had them delivered to his cell. Singer was able to order and possess his D&D materials without incident from June 2002 until November 2004. This all changed on or about November 14, 2004, when Waupun’s long-serving Disruptive Group Coordinator, Captain Bruce Muraski, received an anonymous letter from an inmate. The letter expressed concern that Singer and three other inmates were forming a D&D gang and were trying to recruit others to join by passing around their D&D publications and touting the “rush” they got from playing the game. Muraski, Waupun’s expert on gang activity, decided to heed the letter’s advice and “check into this gang before it gets out of hand.”
On November 15, 2004, Muraski ordered Waupun staff to search the cells of the inmates named in the letter. The search of Singer’s cell turned up twenty-one books, fourteen magazines, and Singer’s handwritten D&D manuscript, all of which were confiscated. Muraski examined the confiscated materials and determined that they were all D&D related. In a December 6, 2004 letter to Singer, Muraski informed Singer that “inmates are not allowed to engage in or possess written material that details rules, codes, dogma of games/activities such as ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ because it promotes fantasy role playing, competitive hostility, violence, addictive escape behaviors, and possible gambling.” This prohibition was later reiterated in a daily bulletin that was posted throughout the prison. It was also incorporated into a broader policy prohibiting inmates from engaging in all types of fantasy games.
Though plaintiff cited “a literacy tutor and a role-playing game analyst, testified to a positive relationship between D&D and rehabilitation, none disputed or even acknowledged the prison officials’ assertions that there are valid reasons to fear a relationship running in the opposite direction”:
The prison officials pointed to a few published circuit court cases to give traction to their views. We view these cases as persuasive evidence that for some individuals, games like D&D can impede rehabilitation, lead to escapist tendencies, or result in more dire consequences. See Meyer v. Branker, 506 F.3d 358, 370 (4th Cir. 2007) (noting that defendant Meyer “was obsessed with Dungeons and Dragons,” and that “this obsession caused ‘[him] to retreat into a fantasy world of Ninja warriors’ “); Thompson v. Dixon, 987 F.2d 1038, 1039 (4th Cir. 1993) (affirming the conviction of one of two men who brought a D&D adventure to life by entering the home of an elderly couple and assassinating them); cf. Sellers v. Ward, 135 F.3d 1333, 1335 (10th Cir. 1998) (defense counsel argued that Sellers’s addiction to D&D dictated his actions and disconnected him from any consciousness of wrongdoing or [**20] responsibility for three murders); Watters v. TSR, Inc., 904 F.2d 378, 380 (6th Cir. 1990) (describing a teenager who committed suicide as “a ‘devoted’ Dungeons and Dragons player who became absorbed by the game to the point of losing touch with reality”).
Despite Singer’s large quantum of affidavit testimony asserting that D&D is not associated with gangs and that the game can improve inmate rehabilitation, he has failed to demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact concerning the reasonableness of the relationship between Waupun’s D&D ban and the prison’s clearly legitimate penological interests. The district court’s grant of summary judgment is therefore AFFIRMED.