No D&D for US prison inmate serving life

Noting that "punishment is a fundamental aspect of imprisonment, and prisons may choose to punish inmates by preventing them from participating in some of their favorite recreations," a 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ban the playing of Dungeons and Dragons by a US prison inmate serving life for first-degree murder:
Singer, 33, has been a devoted player of the fantasy role-playing game since he was a child, according to the court ruling. After the ban went into effect, prison officials confiscated dozens of Dungeons & Dragons books and magazines in his cell as well as a 96-page manuscript he had written detailing a potential scenario for the game that players could act out.

Prison officials enacted the ban in 2004 after an inmate sent an anonymous letter expressing concern about Singer and three other inmates forming a "gang" focused around playing the game.

Singer was told by prison officials that he could not keep the materials because Dungeons & Dragons "promotes fantasy role playing, competitive hostility, violence, addictive escape behaviors, and possible gambling," according to the ruling. The prison later developed a more comprehensive policy against all types of fantasy games, the court said.

Game over: Wisconsin inmate can't play Dungeons & Dragons (Thanks, Factotum!)

(Image: Wulfgar on his warhorse, a Creative Commons Attribution photo from Benimoto's photostream)


  1. They probably can’t stop him from playing _De Profundis_, the GM-less and sometimes solo RPG where you write letters and role-play yourself going gradually insane.

  2. … because Dungeons & Dragons “promotes fantasy role playing, competitive hostility, violence, addictive escape behaviors, and possible gambling”

    I assume that’s supposed to mean, as opposed to the things promoted by simply being in prison at all … have these people actually been inside the prisons they’re managing?

  3. Possible gambling, as clinical trials are not yet conclusive. Consult your physician if character design lasts for more than 12 hours. D&D is not for everyone; judgmental people may want to try depriving prisoners of things instead.

    1. 12 hours for character development is not at all unreasonable. as a dm, such a thing would increase my respect for a player. i’d fear them, and try to make the game worthy. but that’s just me.

  4. “gambling” lol totally. we always made big bets. cigars, scotch and all.

    maybe some people do. who cares?

    if they can make knives, they can make dice. all it takes is i coin. bifurcate the unit interval and keep flipping. 4 or 5 flips is 1/16 or 1/32 in probability (for any given sequence, respecting order).

    and if you can sell drugs in prison, you can trade roll playing moves.

    they will never stop us.

  5. Er… he’s in PRISON. Because he KILLED SOMEONE.

    The state has a responsibility to provide food/shelter/safety, what right should a murdered have to role playing games while they’re doing time?

    He’s not killin time in the library during a free period. He’s paying for the life he took away.

    1. again, i refer to gandalf:

      “many who live deserve death. and many who die deserve life. can you give it to them?”

      maybe he made a mistake. if he’s in jail, for life, he’s no longer a threat. compassion counts. no reason to make him suffer more now.

    2. Ah, revenge based justice system, ain’t it beautiful.

      Say, how exactly “pays” one for a life? Does the murdererd come magically back to live or “comes to peace in heaven”, when the murderer has been abused enough?

    3. Absolutely seconded.
      For those serving a life sentence prison should not be an 8×10 with all of the conveniences and joys of life on the outside. Moreover, lifers should be separate from those who are being rehabilitated and reintroduced to society.

    4. Right, and he was a D&D devotee even before he bludgeoned the dame. Possible correlation? Lots of proponents like to highlight how gaming positively induces and influences social behaviour; add this to the stats.

    5. Maybe keeping them occupied playing a game is better than them sitting around thinking of way to cause trouble? Let them play a game. I couldn’t care less.

      There reasons for saying no are idiotic though. Sounds like they were just getting into fights over it and they had to cook up some bogus reasons to end it.

  6. In my opinion, no matter what, cutting of the external world is punishment enough. To cut off a person’s creation of their own worlds is just wrong.

    1. I agree if you look at the human rights document it clearly states that section 24 everyone has the right to play and it also says that no one can take that right away. Sounds suspiciously like that to me.

  7. Wow. A prison is using the EXACT same argument my high school used when some friends and I were playing “Magic: The Gathering” in the hall during lunch.

    Three nerds sitting at a table, quietly playing a card game. The Dean of Students freaked out when he saw pennies on the table (counters) and assumed it was gambling.Then looked at the cards and starting asking about the “violent” images. One of my smart-ass friends pointed out that playing cards have “The Suicide King” and that is was just a strategy game. We spent about ten minutes explaining the rules to him. Kind of cool actually.

    The Dean ended up leaving us alone, but he did ask us not to use money as counters. A hardline Christian Brother from “the old school” was more open-minded than these dopes? Silliness.

  8. Stupid bureaucrats!

    Don’t cause trouble, obey the rules, and you can play D&D.

    Screw up, start fights, make weapons, et al, etc. No D&D for a set time.

    This is the same mentality that bans TVs, radios and weights in Federal prisons.

    You remove the potential removal of TV, radio, weightlifting gear as punishment.

    Behave, don’t fuck up, you get to keep your TV. Fuck up, Oooops! There goes your TV for a few months.

    Stupid vindictive bureaucrats!

  9. I’m really divided on this as I didn’t have time to look up the details of his murder case.

    If he had a case history of fantasizing about killing people and acting it out which finally resulted in him actually killing somebody, then perhaps it’s for the best.

    And I do agree that he’s doing time not to just waste it away on games – and yes, I’m well aware of how bad it is in prison and the horrible shortcomings (to put it mildly) of prison life.

    But the fact is that reading a book is just as much “fantasizing” as playing D&D, and they’re not banning anyone from reading fantasy books in prison (or even classics which can carry you away). My guess is that they just don’t understand it at all, are scared of it, or think it’s “just another game”.

    I think in general that some prisoners should be allowed to play D&D. Heck, maybe it’ll “nerd them up” to become a bit better citizens with more empathy towards others. But I wouldn’t go out defending this guy without knowing more. He could be somebody I’d rather see dropped down a well for what he did (though I’m not advocating his death or anything…just a figure of speech).

    I think a blanket ban is stupid though. Like I said: some people might actually benefit from it a bit. You never know. And I’d rather see gangs of D&D players in prison than the gangs currently in vogue that you usually get behind bars.

  10. Nice image choice

    “Singer was sentenced to life in prison in 2002 after being found guilty of first-degree intentional homicide in the killing of his sister’s boyfriend. The man was bludgeoned to death with a sledgehammer.”

  11. Our idea of punishment for crimes is as morally bankrupt as any of the rest of our societal structures.

    Why does one institution have a monopoly on punishing people on crimes?

    Punishment doesn’t prevent crimes. It doesn’t make the victim whole. It creates all sorts of perverse incentives, ie the drug war. It just grinds up lives, wastes money, and in a variety of ways creates more criminals.

    I mean, people stand around and laugh about prison rape. Hahahah..don’t drop the soap! I mean..RAPE. Institutionalized RAPE. YEARS AND YEARS OF DAILY VIOLENT GANG RAPE IS OUR SOCIETY’S ANSWER TO THE PROBLEM OF CRIME.

    Our whole society is based on structures o violence and coercion, and some warden is worry about imaginary dwarves with battle axes?

    Why do we give an exclusive monopoly on “punishment” to one group of people? The criminal justice system isn’t really interested in protecting people, isn’t really interested in providing restitution for crimes…but is very interested in punishing, punishing, punishing.

    There’s no moral basis for it. It’s sick, wrong, unproductive, non-rehabilitative, expensive, and harmful.

    A sane criminal justice system would be based on rehabilitation, making the victim whole, and expelling the unrepentant from society and economic life until they come around.

    1. I couldn’t agree more.. Ever since I read Koloss, by Norwegian author Finn Alnæs, I’ve held the same conviction.

  12. I feel oddly conflicted about this. On one hand, I’m a firm believer in prisoners being made to break rocks with other rocks and wearing black and white striped jumpsuits. I even (controversially) advocate the death penalty for repeat offenders and paedophiles. They’ve proven their worthlessness and frankly, oxygen has better uses. And while I do quote it ironically, death penalty cases have a 100% rate of no reoffending where the sentence is carried out.

    On the other, these guys are sitting quietly, serving their time and not dealing drugs, shanking each other or any of the other wonderful things that are associated with life in the Big House with probably the most destructive thing being the shouting of NATURAL 20!

    Weird. I never thought this would make me feel odd.

    1. You mention pedophilia and repeat offenses as reasons to advocate the death penalty… but neither of these are really powerful indicators of rehabilitation potential.
      Statistically speaking, sexual abusers of children have one of the best responses to therapy. Many pedophiles realize that they have a problem before they ever harm a child, and seek help for it.
      Repeat offenses are often indicative of difficulty adjusting to a new lifestyle while under post prison supervision, rather than wasting their second chance.

      I beg of you to actually consult facts before voting on ill-considered policy.

  13. I’m sickened by this.

    The late Gary Gygax pointed out when religious nutbags were claiming a connection with violence that overall if such “Statistics” could be taken at face value, the number of players compared to acts of violence was low. By statistics, it lowers the chance of violence. So the nutbags went back to the “Chick Tract” argument and quoting outright false statistics as if they’d never been countered.

    But, I think the warden was on a “Power Trip” and frankly people like that care nothing for the truth. Eventually, most of these people from the murderers to the child molesters will get out. Simply put, our nation is on a downward spiral and there’s fierce NIMBY to everything, so they’ll push some of them out. Years ago, the Drug war caused an up swing in molestations that were committed by people who’d gotten “1 year to life” but then the parole board found 2 “Mandatory Minimums” and 1 “Parole option” and ran out of bank robbers and mob bosses…

    Overall, he should allow such a game. Keeps them quiet, keeps them socializing. Keeps them relatively obedient as he could take them away for bad behavior.

  14. “He’s not killin time in the library during a free period. He’s paying for the life he took away.”

    What exactly is he paying? Time? Are you suggesting by any reasonable or measurable level that time can be, or even remotely fix, the murder of someone? He’s a menace to society and he’s locked away forever with a bunch of people who did similar things, this is fucking free period dude. I’d rather him play DnD than learn how to build bombs (though I’m sure the prison bans both). I think if we look at the narrow view of this being only some kind of punishment, and not something that’s supposed to help reintegrate them into the society after their “debt” has been paid, we forget that while this person did commit murder it’s possible for them to be a functioning person of society again. Unless you have no morals, than we can just kill him.

  15. Hmm, so the guy killed his sister’s boyfriend. Now why would a man kill his sister’s boyfriend? Probably he had a good reason. I think he should be allowed his game.

    Now if he had murdered someone while robbing them, or maybe not even murder but rape, then I’d say put the bastard in a blank white room with nothing but his own mind.

    1. Um, do you really think it’s possible to have a “good” reason to kill someone? If so, maybe saying so out loud isn’t a good idea.

      (If he really wants to roleplay, he can’t be stopped. It’s not as if you actually *need* rulebooks, or figures, or even dice. Presumably he’s allowed pen and paper, but really even that is optional.)

      1. “Um, do you really think it’s possible to have a “good” reason to kill someone? If so, maybe saying so out loud isn’t a good idea.”

        Well if they are threatening my life or others then why is their life more important?

        If it is me or them, I choose me by what ever means necessary.

    2. This is blind conjecture, ergo, idiotic. You assume that he probably killed his sister’s boyfriend for a justifiable reason, and that further, there are circumstances under which murder is justified and no longer constitutes murder. Since the US justice system often tends towards the latter assumtion, and he’s still in for first degree, wouldn’t that reduce the chance of your ‘justifiable homicide’ hypothesis being correct?

      Probably he’s a basement-dwelling creep with limited social skills and an unhealthy obsession with his sister! (I trust that you understand that this is a counterillustration and not an actual opinion).

      1. Apparently a basement dwelling creep who specialized in bludgeoning weapons, took Power Crit and Sunder, but not enough in Hide and Bluff.

  16. The concept that a 33 year old man deprived of his family, friends, any kind of meaningful trade or craft, the ability to travel, the ability to determine what he eats, who he sees, where he lays his head and even with whom he showers is somehow “getting one over” on the system by being able to roll up a Paladin now and then is patently absurd.

    He made awful decisions, and should be taken out of society for having made them. Why delight in that?

    As a YA librarian I’ve run role-playing campaigns with teenagers and seen them learn to work together, think creatively and use their imaginations to entertain each other.

    Even the most vile of villains should not be deprived of the right to imagine. Doing so dimishes us as his jailers and speaks to our need for revenge, not justice.

  17. i think its fine and dandy to take away their things. though they shouldnt start with D&D without taking away exercise equipment. I’m fine with criminals getting “imaginative” from sitting in circles pretending to be elves, but encouraging people who have histories of actively engaging in violent crime to become even stronger and more physically fit than they used to be before they were incarcerated just seems backwards.

    if anything they should be on a crappy tasting but nutritional diets and barely exercising. we all know eating steamed celery and playing D&D is a more than appropriate route to such an end. ^_^

  18. You can jail a person, but you can not jail his mind.
    He, who has lost all his freedoms is still free when he dreams. You cannot jail dreams.
    I´m sad that the USA the criminal system seeks only revenge and punishment, and not rehabilitation, like other countries.
    Peace & imagination.

  19. he should switch to Mind’s Eye Theater. Let them ban paper, scissors, rock…

    err, wait, they actually do ban paper, scissors and rocks.

    oh well, try not to kill if you like to play D&D.

  20. If I ever end up in prison, the last thing I will say is “Hey guys, who wants to play some Dungeons and Dragons? Haven’t heard of it? Well we sit around a table and pretend to be wizards or fantasy warriors and slay monsters and talk to each other in character!”

    You might as well just brag about raping kids.

  21. The morality of the War on Drugs, death penalty and even punishing criminals at all? We might be getting a little off topic here.

    The judge handed down a profoundly weak argument. Who did the prisoners have to represent them? A para-legal could have won that case. Yes, Dungeons & Dragons “promotes fantasy role playing” that’s what the game is right? When you say D&D promotes “…competitive hostility, violence, addictive escape behaviors, and possible gambling,” I’m sorry but there’s no game on Earth that doesn’t promote that. If you’ve ever known a true team fanatic you know that the professional sports that prisoners see on TV promote all those things and alcohol consumption besides. Is the prison going to blank out all professional ball games? The entire US prison system would erupt into rioting with in a week.

  22. Singer took away another person’s right to ever play D&D – or take part in any other enjoyable activity – permanently. Without recourse, without due process, without mercy.

  23. I’m impressed. Finally a US prison shows meaningful commitment to the positive reform of its inmates.

  24. He should be allowed to play on the condition that his character is confined to an inescapable prison…

  25. I guess the guy who snitched did it because he wasn’t invited to play… that’s the usual reason… and it ends up ruining things for everybody…

  26. We lock up our criminals for a few reasons, to punish, to reform, to prevent them from offending, for retribution and as a deterrent others who would commit crime.

    Whilst being able to play DnD in prisons satisfies the prevention and reformation categories I think a lot of people would argue that it doesn’t satisfy the punishment, retribution and deterrent categories. So I can see why people would agree with this ruling.

    Having said that though I think punishment and retribution are the weakest of all the categories and frankly I’d be very happy with a justice system that paid no heed to them. Deterrent is a trickied one but I don’t think the fact that people could play Dnd if they get imprisoned for a crime is going to lesson the deterrent of imprisonment e.g. I don’t think any new crimes would be committed if prisoners were known to be allowed to play dungeons and dragons.

    In my opinion it’s a bad ruling, but I’m a Kantian so the whole idea of imprisonment is a bit off for me.

  27. A point: “A man serving life in prison for first-degree intentional homicide…”

    I had a very close friend (in fact, the only woman I’d ever considered marrying) murdered. Believe me, all your idealism goes out the window once you’ve lost a loved one to a vicious murder. One person dead, dozens of peoples’ live impacted.

    This man deserves no sympathy whatsoever.

    Say what you will about compassion, he showed none for his victim. And the hell that prisons are could be hugely diminished if murderers and other perpetrators of heinous crimes were subject to the death penalty once all legal options were exhausted.

    Not only would the prison system be improved by removing the inmates mostly likely to attack and kill or maim other inmates and guards, but the justice system would be relieved enough to possibly be a justice system.

    And, after all, better a few innocent be executed than to continue to overcrowd prisons with people that continue to murder even as they “serve” their time.

    While it’s regrettable, and I say “regrettable” with the full intention of the word, that a few innocents be executed unjustly, I find it more regrettable that hundreds are murdered each year by people who go on living and killing others in prison.

    Kill the line off. Make it a genetic decision. How many murderers have “served their time”, rejoined society, fathered children and passed on their genetic and/or psychological penchant for murder to another generation? Countless.

    Please notice I said execution after all legal options are exhausted. I do not advocate the execution of innocent people. But I am a pragmatist, and I understand that justice cannot be perfect.

    1. “after all, better a few innocent be executed”

      I am thinking that you are, perhaps, a monster. Say what you will about compassion, it’s clear that you don’t understand what it means.

    2. I’ll simply point out that some societies make do with much less murders (yes, on a per capita level) and no death penalty.

    3. Consider the math of what you propose, when you say that a few innocents should be unjustly executed. Not only does an innocent person get punished, which is bad enough, but whenever an innocent party is convicted, the actual guilty party is still free. They don’t just disappear when the miscarriage of justice occurs, they’re still out there, ready to commit another crime once more.

      When you advocate the acceptance of inefficient justice like that, you triple the damage to society: there’s the original crime, the crime of punishing the innocent, and the crime that the guilty party of the original crime is free to commit.

      It’s pretty rhotoric, and I understand the pain you’re going through, but when justice is two eyes for an eye, we all end up blind.

    4. I don’t mean to sound callous, but out of curiosity, how is executing an innocent man any different than your friend being murdered?

      1. Also, this is a weird thing to say:

        Kill the line off. Make it a genetic decision. How many murderers have “served their time”, rejoined society, fathered children and passed on their genetic and/or psychological penchant for murder to another generation? Countless.


    5. You write

      “Kill the line off. Make it a genetic decision. How many murderers have “served their time”, rejoined society, fathered children and passed on their genetic and/or psychological penchant for murder to another generation? Countless.

      Please notice I said execution after all legal options are exhausted. I do not advocate the execution of innocent people. But I am a pragmatist, and I understand that justice cannot be perfect.”

      Okay, so what about the children and sibilings of murderers? Do they get just sterilized or do we off ’em too, just to make sure?

        1. Ah, I was trying to limit myself to 50% of shared code. But you are right, of course.

          Better make it 7 generations, just to make sure.

          1. You never can be too careful. I can’t wait until they invent a time machine that will allow us to just go back and wipe out all the evildoers at their true inception: Adam and Eve. (dusts off hands) Problem solved.

    6. So, in your mind, killing an innocent person is not equal to executing him?

      So, you claim the deaths of a few innocents is the price for justice? What about the lives of the people that get murdered? Are they included in for the same price?

  28. JUST in case I needed any more reason to stay out of prison… THANK GOD the courts have put this into action, now the streets in my neighborhood are safe!

  29. Doggo – Kill the line off. Make it a genetic decision. How many murderers have “served their time”, rejoined society, fathered children and passed on their genetic and/or psychological penchant for murder to another generation? Countless.

    Like your parents, you mean? They seem to have passed on the impulse to murder to you pretty well. Your urge to kill people while not suffering repercussions is clearly an evolutionary leap. If you get any more evolved, you can get a job in politics.

  30. “I have no idea to this day what those two nerds were talking about. Truth is, I don’t want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I’d like to think they were talking about taking on a den of kobolds with just a +2 dagger and a few cantrips and gaining enough experience to make 4th level and enough electrum pieces to buy a Rod of Withering, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free.”

  31. Why is he playing D&D? He should be out doing something for the betterment of society, digging ditches, cleaning up highways etc.

    1. the world may seem clockwork orange… but they haven’t started the aversion therapy yet on criminals… remember how Alex ended up where he couldn’t listen to his beloved classical music without suffering horrendous nausea and throwing up? The state he was in after the therapy where he was incapable of committing a violent act even to save himself and ended up getting beaten up by his old gang mates who were now policemen.

  32. RTFA, people. The prison didn’t ban him from playing D&D, it just confiscated his dangerously outdated AD&D 2nd Edition materials.

    Think about it. Yeah, this guy’s a lifer, but maybe the guy he’s playing with is only in for ten years. Someday he’s going to get out, and now that poor schmuck is stuck trying to build a life from scratch with no experience in the d20 system. He wouldn’t know a Difficulty Check if it bit him on the ass, and he’s going to lose his shit if he sees a Barbarian or a Half-Orc. For crying out load, he’s going to go into job interviews talking about THAC0. THAC0!

  33. “promotes fantasy role playing, competitive hostility, violence, addictive escape behaviors, and possible gambling”

    So they’ve obviously also banned all team sports. And chess (what happens when you move your piece into the other player’s square? The knight says “boo,” the bishop faints and gets carted off?), and probably card games, and maybe even Scrabble and crosswords.

  34. Doesn’t the Bible have “competitive hostility, violence, addictive escape behaviors, and possible gambling”? The first two in Genesis, the escape of the slaves in Exodus, and casting lots for Jesus’ cloak? Better ban that book in prisons!

    Also, dictionaries!

  35. I get that he’s in prison and I don’t have an issue that that took away his materials. But seriously, what proof do they have that playing RPGs promotes “…competitive hostility, violence, addictive escape behaviors, and possible gambling,” or that something that “promotes fantasy role playing,” is bad? Where’s the evidence?

  36. D&D was banned in my school’s gifted program because it was “a game of chance”, proving that the people running the gifted program were not as smart as the kids in it who knew random numbers are useful in simulations.

    While I’m not one for coddling prisoners, I do think this is kind of stupid and vindictive. I’d rather they were playing D&D than watching TV, honestly.

  37. Well, they can certainly take D&D away from him, but not roleplaying. Just write up a cursory set of house rules, and then look look to the environment for the means of providing random numbers. Pennies, dark or light stones, numbered chits. It’s all there.

  38. i agree with the prison’s right to make the ban but their reasoning sounds like their knowledge of the game comes from cira ’82 scare pieces on the news.

  39. What an absurd story.

    While the focusing on the potential evils of DnD is beyond silly, who gives a flying F**K in a rolling donut that this guy can’t play his game (roll playing or otherwise) while incarcerated for first degree murder?

    Cry me a river.

    1. People who think that how a society treats their old, weak, sick, and imprisoned is a measure of their civilisation.

  40. This isn’t about molycoddling prisoners.
    I’m fine with someone saying, “You have to pay for what you’ve done – no luxury items until you show remorse/reform/value to society”.
    Saying that DnD is banned because it promotes dangerous behaviour is just ridiculous.

    Also, maybe #45 is correct. Imagine if some new guy comes along and wants to play a Dwarf Paladin/Sorcerer. This 2nd Ed guy would probably shank him there and then. Just don’t tell him that a higher armour class is now better than a low one or that STR 18/76 is not a number anymore.

  41. Here’s an idea!

    Why not force him to only play a Paladin or another Lawful Good class to drum in some good behavior for the next 20 years? =)

    Now we can incorporate rehabilitation AND gaming in prison. =)

  42. Playing DnD was the only thing that kept my brother sane while he was in prison.

    It is really wierd (yet totally awesome) to call your brother in prison and have him quickly gloss over the craziness going on so he can tell you all about what his level 10 Paladin is up to.

  43. Momma wouldn’t let me play D&D either – she said D&D is the Devil.

    IMO, since prison doesn’t actually rehabilitate criminals, it should be made unpleasant enough, depending on the crime, to be a real deterrence to to criminal behavior – sort of like the different levels of Hell in Dante’s Inferno.

    1. Wait a minute. You take it for granted, that imprisoning can’t be used in rehabilitating, but also that deterrence works?

      I head London pickpockets lifting the purses from onlookers on other pickpockets executions laughing from a couple centuries ago.

      1. That’s not what I said – sure, I think prison CAN be made to rehabilitate criminals – but for the most part, isn’t doing so at this time. Placing someone that was caught with a little pot or that shoplifted, or some other minor offence with hardened criminals – lifers, isn’t rehabilitation. I’m sure there are some exceptions, some prisons that actually try to help prisoners ready themselves for a different lifestyle when they leave prison and be productive citizens, but most just keep criminals away from the rest of society.
        Does deterrence work? It has to at some level, but still, I’d like to think that murderers, rapists, and their ilk are having a very unpleasant time during their stay in jail.

        1. But deterrence doesn’t really work very well, especially not for crimes of passion and when the criminal doesn’t feel that he could lose anything. Most of them have shitty live, either in or out of prison and have no way to interact with “normal” people. Aliens with no understanding how the rest of society interacts. Not all, of course – there are sociopaths, of course.

          I do not see how abusing these people should help in the slightest. Those who could be rehabilitated would certainly not profit from abuse. And those who can’t and need to be imprisoned for live or at least decades just get reaffirmed in their belief that might makes right.

  44. Haha, there are people playing WoW in prison and this guy was stupid enough to play D&D. I assume this is by name only that he got this issue.

    Obviously he would do well to switch to GURPS imo.

  45. Prison used to be about rehabilitation. Now it’s about punishment. That’s progress, Devolution-style.

  46. I don’t really care if prisoners can’t play D&D or ping-pong or rotisserie baseball or whatever. (Assuming they’re guilty of something terrible.) They’re not there to have fun.

    On the other hand, what else are they supposed to do with their time? Sharpen their shivs? There’s got to be a point after which they just don’t get any sharper.

  47. “The prison later developed a more comprehensive policy against all types of fantasy games, the court said. ”

    I think this is the worst of it, For the system to disallow one person its hard to judge on why or why not they should be allowed the freedom. But to create a overall ban excluding any and all types to be enacted is ludicris.

    ” Exploto | #10 | 23:35 on Mon, Jan.25 | Reply

    In my opinion, no matter what, cutting of the external world is punishment enough. To cut off a person’s creation of their own worlds is just wrong.”

    This comment represents it best.

    The system blindly turns its eye to many other forms of illigal escapism in prison, and by doing so more or less encourages them.

  48. The pro-unusual punishment commenters are getting it wrong.

    It’s not about this – or any – particular prisoner’s rights. It’s about limiting the state’s and industrial prison complex’s scope of control in all of our lives.

    This story is upsetting because it allows us to imagine our own thoughts being policed, and it’s scary. Some people respond to this fear by creating a false psychological divide between themselves and the prisoner (i.e. “he must be a bad person – unlike me – if he’s in jail. therefore he’s not allowed the same human rights as me”)

    1. “Some people respond to this fear by creating a false psychological divide between themselves and the prisoner (i.e. “he must be a bad person – unlike me – if he’s in jail. therefore he’s not allowed the same human rights as me”) ”

      False divide? On its basest level, doesn’t choosing to not use murder to solve ones problems = better person? What am I missing here?

      “..industrial prison complex’s scope of control in all of our lives”

      As far as I know, the industrial prison “complex” scope of control doesn’t effect my life in any way.

      Strike that. It does control me!

      I know I don’t want to go to prison.

  49. Well, list all the reasons why a man would kill his sister’s boyfriend. Wouldn’t most of them be good reasons?

    Like, for example. If my sister’s boyfriend raped her, stole all her money, and beat her, then went to court and got off on a technicality, leaving him free to possibly take vengeance on my sister by murdering her with the violence he has used in the past? Would I kill him personally? No, because I don’t have that capacity for violence. Would I blame someone else in the same position for doing so? Not at all.

    If the man killed his sister’s boyfriend in cold blood for no reason at all, or a bad reason (like unhealthy attraction to his own sister), then he would obviously have the death penalty anyway. Since he doesn’t, then his defense probably had a good excuse to get him out of that one.

    There ARE established “good reasons” to kill people by law. Another example: he walks in to his sister’s house, to see her getting the shit beat out of her by her boyfriend. In a rage, he kills the boyfriend. If that is what happened, then he’d be charged with manslaughter and receive a lighter sentence. Since he was charged with first degree, the difference is that he planned the attack.

    I do think the severity of the crime should be taken into account for your punishment. People who killed at random, for money, or for pleasure shouldn’t be put in the same category as people who killed in defense of themselves or their loved ones.

    In this case, we don’t know what happened. But seriously though, how many reasons are there for a man to kill his sister’s boyfriend, that fall under first degree with no death penalty? More likely that it was a “good” reason.

    But I’m just speculating. Who knows for sure?

    1. A common reason to kill the lover of one’s sister is to avenge the shame he and her brought onto the family.

      It’s not a good reason to me, but mileage varies.

      Your 3rd example – he protects her from getting beating up, accidentally killing the man – would probably lead to dropped charges over here (Germany), if evidence corroborating his and his sister’s story exists.

      Killing in self-defense is not a crime where I live, even if some Bavarian judges think differently.

    2. Or maybe the jury was anti-death penalty? Just a thought. I sure as hell couldn’t condemn a man to death, particularly with Texas’ penchant for executing men based on pathetic excuses for evidence. There have been too many convictions overturned in multiple states in recent years. There would have to be overwhelming evidence for me to consider putting someone to death.

    3. Razzabeth, for some bizzare reason your list of reasons for killing your sister’s boyfriend failed to include killing him because he threatened to tell the police about your involvement in a bank robbery.

      You also do Singer’s defense counsel a disservice: instead of merely convincingly arguing that he shouldn’t be executed, they built a time machine, went back to 1853 and abolished the death penalty in Wisconsin.

  50. In Britain, there was a story a while ago about prisoners being given small amounts of money to play games like Scrabble. This was intended to give them non-violent methods of gaining satisfaction and basically helping in the effort to reform them. It encourages criminals to use their minds and do something constructive, which is sensible given that the average IQ in prison is significantly below the general populations, which probably contributes to the disadvantages and despair that are a leading cause of criminal behaviour anyway.

    One thing that makes me wonder is the fact that this ban is for the whole prison, meaning that people who are going to be out again at some point after a traffic violation or found possessing cannabis are suffering the same as murdering scum. In any case, a life sentence is just a long time in most cases, so this guy will be out, too.
    What I’m driving at in a slow and meandering manner is that if you take away any means for a person to socialise and use their energies for good, clean fun, they’re just forced to stew and ponder just how much society hates them. And when they get out, we expect them to love society enough to not commit more crimes. Either that or we expect fear to work. Good luck with that.

  51. The state penitentiary which my brother passed some time in refused to give him the Amazon gift I sent for Christmas: a copy of David Rees’ “My New Fighting Technique Is Unstoppable”, because it contained references to violence.

  52. The way I see it, there are two separate issues here.

    The first is whether prisoners should be punished by depriving them of things such as books, games, TV, etc.

    The second is that you have an officious bureaucrat leveling a lot of charges at D&D that don’t hold up to scrutiny.

    I am not overly concerned with the first here, but every time we let administrative prigs like these prison officials use weasel words as justification for their actions, we move further and further away from a society with real accountability.

    Want to punish by taking something away? Say so. The court explicitly agreed with the notion of deprivation punishments of that type.

    People who hide behind vague, unsupported notions of “inappropriateness” as justification for their agendas are among the worst sort of person.

    1. Nicely said Sir or Madam. Or pan-sexual Android from the future (What? You can’t empirically tell me he/she/it isn’t.)

      Why the warden decided to open his gob and make “Fantasy Games” a no-no based on unsubstantiated opinion, and more over, why the Circuit Court bought it is beyond me. I can only imagine the court was reticent to overturn the ban as it could theoretically set precedent for challenging the institutional authority of the corrections department.

      To whit: The corrections department and courts certainly have the right to dictate what items an inmate may or may not possess and what activities the inmate may or may not take part in, however, where does it state that the court can define one type of game as deleterious and exclude other types of games?

      For example, Playing Cards can contribute to “competitive hostility, violence, addictive escape behaviors, and possible gambling”. Are we going to see a ruling that bans Gin Rummy, Euchre, or Spades?

      For that matter, while doing a 6-month stretch in county for an OMVI (Class 1 Misdemeanor drunk driving), I regularly engaged in games of Scrabble in which direct gambling was a common place occurrence. When people start placing side bets on you, things get weird. I had a guy try to beat me up after he accused me of throwing a game in which he lost a sizable chunk of his commissary items for the week.

      Competitive hostility, violence and gambling.

      What it comes down to IMO, is that rather than have to police a bunch of potential outcomes, a blanket ban was made because it’s EASIER FOR THE INSTITUTION TO ENFORCE AND INCREASES THEIR AUTHORITY. It has nothing to do with punishing this guy whether you think he “deserves” it or not (Note: there is no correct answer to that question you silly a&&hats. Only opinions)

  53. I’m just really impressed by this prison. By 2004, they had eliminated all of the drug use, rape, violence, overcrowding, recidivism, mental health, aging populations,racism, and criminal activity in their prison, and were able to focus on smaller issues, like tailoring punishments to fit specific criminals.

    I mean, what the hell is wrong with all of these other prisons? If this one could have dealt with all of those serious correctional institution issues SIX years ago, why can’t the other prisons fix theirs?

  54. D&D publishers:

    please label the products accordingly: “Promotes fantasy role playing, competitive hostility, violence, addictive escape behaviors, and possible gambling.” at least a small printing, it would be an awesome way to commemorate the court’s interpretation.

  55. If a prisoner can be rehabilitated, then I’m all for it. Prisoners should attend classes, read books, and try to become the kind of people who can contribute to society. However, I see zero benefit to allowing prisoners to participate in activities that don’t speak directly to rehabilitation.

    I don’t believe in retributive punishment. Prisoners are not separated from society and stripped of all but their basic rights to food, shelter, and healthcare, because we want to get back at them. They are stripped of those ancillary rights because they have proven that they will commit crimes. Part of their rehabilitation MUST include the understanding that committing a crime comes with consequences. Letting prisoners have the things that make them happy is akin to your parents grounding you but leaving you with your cellphone and computer and toys. Except there was probably no gang rape at your house. But you get the point.

    1. That’s the thing: if you read the article, this isn’t about denying the prisoner something enjoyable for punishment, it’s specifically because it “promotes fantasy role playing, competitive hostility, violence, addictive escape behaviors, and possible gambling,” as described in the ruling. If it is actually about depriving the prisoner of something for punishment, then the prison officers have (probably) committed perjury by claiming otherwise. They do have the right to deprive as punishment, but they did not claim that’s what they were doing.

      And no, there wasn’t any gang rape at my house, but there were severe beatings carried out on unsubstantiated accusations. To this day I tend to associate unsubstantiated claims with acts of violence and deprivation, simply because that’s where they inevitably lead in my youth.

    2. “If a prisoner can be rehabilitated, then I’m all for it. Prisoners should attend classes, read books, and try to become the kind of people who can contribute to society. However, I see zero benefit to allowing prisoners to participate in activities that don’t speak directly to rehabilitation.”

      When you’re trying to recover from a difficult and stressful time, how do you do it? Sure, you might attend counselling to help you direct your efforts. But you would probably also do generally relaxing things, like take a walk or a bath, play cards and drink tea with a friend, go bowling, see a band, or maybe even play some D&D.

      Now imagine that the particular difficult and stressful time you’re trying to recover from, is an entire life so profoundly screwed up that it drove you to addiction, theft and violence. Imagine also that you’re trying to rehabilitate yourself from that, without access to any such simple, unfocused pleasures.

      Do you suppose you might, instead, end up going bat-shit insane? I think I probably would.

  56. I’ll be asking the warden if I can send a non-violent game, e.g., PANDEMIC! for inmate Singer, et al.

    Any other suggestions for non-violent games, BBoingers?

  57. The bit that I liked was that there was a bunch of inmates playing D&D together.

    I’m imagining these hulking, broken-nosed, blue-green-tattooed brutes crowded around a little table full of dice and miniatures using phrases like “bag of holding” and for some reason it brings me immense delight. A dorkshank redemption.

    1. You can imagine how the game would be modified to reflect their surroundings:

      And then Flagomir pulls his +2 Shiv of Invisibility, stabbing Stank Puppy the Red, who drinks his only Pruno of Massive Healing to compensate….

      Maybe the guards were afraid they’d get ahold of the classic module set Scourge of the Slave Lords?

  58. Since the federal appeals court agreed that with the prison that D&D could promote gang behavior, does this mean that this ruling can be cited by every school, club, city, etc., in the country to restrict D&D? Would teaching a kid how to play D&D now be considered to be contributing to the delinquency of a minor?

  59. So also people who like religious activities to while away their time who are in jail should be banned from them as part of their punishment?

  60. “Just don’t tell him that a higher armour class is now better than a low one or that STR 18/76 is not a number anymore.”

    Wait…what? Higher armor class is better now? Whaddya mean there’s no such number as an 18/76 strength anymore??

    *goes fetal*

  61. Keey in mind folks. No one that harps on the need for more or harsher punishment for folks in prison has EVER been in prison, and is not likely to have any clue about the reality they seek to address.

    Doesn’t make their point valid or invalid, but it’s important to keep in mind.

  62. I actually believe in revenge very much. If someone does me wrong, I want payback, so prison to me is a way for revenge.
    I also don’t think prison should be fun at all and conditions should be harsh. Compassion? thats the victims prerogative. And conditions should be based on the prisoner actions (before and after he was incarcerated).

    But this case makes me rage. This is blatant discrimination. As always, in a place where people are supposed to be equal (equally punnished) there are randomly (or not so) distributed asperities. Usually the strong and the “normal” gets it easy. He could have taken down 10 people with a machine gun trying to get one rival dealer while his whimpy cell mate busted for…(LOL, I don’t have any example which will put these two in the same place and make the other guys offence seem ‘light’, but you get my point)… but he will pass the time relatively easy, while for the whimp it will be complete ass-rape Hell!
    This is not justice!

    Neither allowing everyone the same escapistic-dopamin rushing-priviliges, exept for the nerds. While the ‘normal’ beer drinking sport\cards\anything else enthusiast can carry on normally. If the prison allows for eveyone else to read or use computer or socialize instead of solitary confidment, then it souldn’t prevent the DND as well.

  63. It seems to me that most games are fantasy games:
    Monopoly, Chess, Battleship, Hungry Hippos. I guess some like sudoku and checkers and Go are pretty abstract, but I am not quite sure what is so dangerous about fantasy. Have they had D&D related violence? It is hard to imagine what the risks might be.

  64. “punishment is a fundamental aspect of imprisonment”

    Really? Then it just goes to show how stuffed up this world really is. I thought people were locked up to protect those who aren’t locked up. “Revenge” is a petty and vindictive concept that ought to be stamped out, not perpetrated in our social systems. Shame on you! This is a disgusting development and I reckon those responsible ought to be ‘locked up’ until they get a better grip on things. Whats next? 100 lashes, for those who don’t have any recreational activities to supress? Very progressive … not!

  65. Non gamers do not understand that RPing is an outlet and that we know the difference between real and not. More so than them.

  66. @Johnny Coelacanth, jjasper. Good of you to make with the ad hominems, ’cause that proves your point.

    Again, when you’ve seen the dead body of one of your best friends, whose been murdered, get back to me.

    My friend was innocent. She was not involved in crime or drugs in any way. Nor was she drunk, out super late, or engaged in any other sort of risky behavior the night someone choked her life out. She was a productive, positive member of society with a bright future ahead of her.

    You can call me a monster, or say that I lack, or even understand compassion, etc. But I say you are naive and idealistic.

    Sometimes vengeance is called for. And I don’t apologize for believing that. But I believe in justice more than that, otherwise the person who murdered my friend would be dead now.

    I don’t like the idea of executing the guilty. But I don’t think the alternative is viable. Believe me, I’d rather see our society able to provide people with good educations, opportunities, and all the necessary bits that prevent the kind of lives that lead people to perpetrate heinous crimes. I’ve seen up close and personal the poverty, drug abuse, lack of education, and the warehousing of the poor that leads people to end up in prison for murder.

    But a lot of people in prison for murder aren’t there for the first time. Nor even for their first murder. Does society owe them support? Is it sensible to provide food, clothing, shelter, education, and healthcare to someone who’s broken the most basic rule of civilized society? For the rest of their natural lives? Or for however long their sentence for ending someone else’s life is?

    How much does it cost to house an inmate for a year? Where’s the upside to doing it? Is it worth that cost to assuage the conscience of those squeamish about execution? Is it worth it so that our society can be seen as humane, enlightened, compassionate? And how important will those considerations be when you’re called to identify the bloody corpse of you beloved daughter or son?

    I’m sure there are those that have lost innocent loved ones to murder who are more compassionate than me toward their loved one’s killer. Good for them, they’re saints. I’m not one of those people.

  67. Ive just read the ruling, pg 18 is interesting:
    “However, we are not convinced that the ban is as unyieldingly
    categorical as Singer makes it out to be. He
    argues that the ban precludes him from playing D&D and
    therefore he has no alternative means to play D&D. That
    may be true, but, as the district court pointed out in
    discounting this circular argument, Singer still has access
    to other allowable games, reading material, and leisure
    If I were him, I would start playing Runequest, Rolemaster, Palladium, Warhammer FRPG, White Wolf and other RPGS!!!!

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