Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Absolute Garbage

Did y'all see this crap?

I guess prison inmates will be relegated to playing indie games with shared narrative control, huh? The only way the warden will be able to prevent one "game master" from rising to the rank of "gang leader." Or perhaps they can play Ars Magica "troupe style" with rotating Storyteller responsibilities...or would that lead to a shiv-worthy power struggle?

Obviously, the defendant's attorney was an idiot who didn't know enough about role-playing games to adequately describe their positive benefits. Guess they'll be playing checkers now.

***EDIT: Thanks to Greyhawk Grognard for the original news link***


  1. I am intrigued by: "Captain Bruce Muraski who serves as disruptive group coordinator for the Waupun Correctional Institute in Wisconsin, elaborated that "during D&D games, one player is denoted the 'Dungeon Master.'"

    What the hell is a Dungeon Master if not a "disruptive group coordinator"? I'd say Mr. Muraski is just jealous because the inmates wouldn't let him play in their campaign.


  2. If you're interested, I posted on Scribd the Jan. 25, 2009 appeal document about a year ago. Bollocks indeed.

  3. Thanks Mr. Bulette, these kinds of documents are what the law is, and I want to know what it is. I feel now like I need to vomit and then ask why if D&D is so dangerous in prison, why it isn't so dangerous out here? Why is D&D more dangerous than a prison basketball team?

    Sorry now I must vomit.

  4. From the article:
    "It's a blow to role-players everywhere -- criminal role-players that is. Law-abiding citizens are safe .So heed this warning and rob no more, or you'll find you've slain your last halfling."

    ...Unless you are falsely accused of a crime and the D.A. is too lazy to care about your innocense. In that case you are screwed.

  5. Allowing any structure to be in place that could allow one prisoner to have power over another prisoner is a bad idea.

    Saying it will lead to "gang related activities" is likely overstating things A LOT. But prison is a place full of thieves, con-men and extortionists throwing in another angle to be exploited doesn't improve safety or life for the general population and staff. While not all prisoners are dangerous or manipulative there is a number that are and they don't all wear a sign that says "I'm a manipulative potentially dangerous sociopath"...oh wait...they have a prison convict uniform on. It's PRISON not day camp.

    Of course were the games monitored or volunteer managed games the situation changes.

  6. @ ze B: Thanks for the link. It makes interesting reading, if a bit depressing. I wonder if there are prisons outside of Wisconsin that have found RPGs to have a positive, gang-reducing effect on their inmate population...perhaps prison officials at those institutions would have been able to provide evidence/affidavits that properly refuted the "expert" claims of Mr. Muraski.

    Isn't most fiction a form of escapism? Would violent fantasy novels/films be banned from the prison as well? Ugh...just thinking about this hurts my head.
    : (

  7. @JB:
    Recently, our local detention center took away all books, regardless of content, attempted to ban cards and RPGs(which the prisoners had made toilet paper dice for!), and tried to restrict intra-block FOOD trading! Awesome! Ostensibly because some prisoners were smuggling in cigarettes, the LEGAL drug.(Friends on the inside said, this was, of course, true, but the cigarettes had been 'officially' banned in a fit of pique over guard inmate relations.(Prisoners were insufficiently obsequious, apparently. Not a violence issue, according to the officials themselves.) There had been no trouble outta the Tump/Spade players or the RPG gamers. This takes away constructive pastimes(and learning opportunities with the loss of the books[and possibly the more inventive RPG sessions]), and builds resentment; honestly I can't see this as desirable. Jail isn't a country club, but it's not supposed to be Hell on Earth either, I'd say. I mean, I'd rather have people coming out in a better mental state than when they went in, re-instatement in society and all that.

  8. 1) This was a civil action (Section 1983) brought by the prisoner. He was a plaintiff not a defendant, the officials are the defendants here. This was not a criminal proceeding. He had no defense attorney, he was suing the state to force them to allow him to play D&D.

    2) This is not the court passing judgment on D&D. Prison officials are given a very high level of deference when it comes to the operation of their facility. The reasons for this include that they have a better understanding of the needs of their facility than a judge or legislator ever could. This case is actually about how much control should the warden have. It is not about whether D&D is evil. The system generates A LOT of 1983 suits by inmates (they have nothing better to do). They tend to be about these kinds of issues, only the object they want access to changes. It is about the warden's ability to decide something is disruptive to the safety and operation of his facility.

    3) The standard is "reasonably related", one of our lowest standards. The state can make any regulation it wants regarding these kinds of hobbies etc as long as the regulation is "reasonably related" to the operation of the facility. He had very little chance of winning this case.

    4) I only skimmed the case, but the plaintiff seems to have only brought a First Amendment claim rather than the 5th Amendment takings claim that these guys usually bring.

  9. Another issue that is somewhat confusing to the non-lawyer. A Section 1983 action is essentially suing a state (through its officers to bypass the sovereign immunity of the state) in federal court for a violation of your constitutional rights. This means that a federal judge will be forcing a state government to change a policy. Federal interference with state matters is something that the American legal system is loaded against. Federalism is at the heart of almost every major debate we have in politics. This is another reason why there is such a high level of deference to the state officer here. Federal courts tend to avoid interfering with state decisions unless absolutley necessary. This is why things like desegregation and the 40 hour work week took so long to develop.