Court Says Playing Dungeons & Dragons In Prisons Represents Gang Behavior

from the bloods,-crips-and-paladins dept

Slashdot points us to a somewhat odd lawsuit in which a court determined that the game Dungeons & Dragons could lead to gang activity, and thus could be banned in prisons.

Basically, a guy who is serving a life sentence for murder, Kevin Singer, was apparently an avid D&D player as well, and had a collection of D&D books and related paraphernalia. However, it was confiscated by the prison after another prisoner complained that Singer was building a “gang” around D&D.

…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.”

Singer and the other prisoners named in the letter filed a complaint about the confiscation, and then a lawsuit. Singer got numerous experts to explain that D&D is not related to gang activity. The court claims that some of those experts actually claimed otherwise, but the interpretation here is fuzzy. The court says that these experts disagreed with Singer’s assertions because they claimed that D&D could keep people away from gang activity, and thus it’s “connected” to gang activity. I can’t see how this makes any sense at all. By that reasoning anything that someone does that keeps them away from joining a gang is automatically considered, itself, a gang activity. How does that make sense?

The explanation as to why D&D serves to create gang activity seems absolutely ridiculous:

Muraski elaborated that during D&D games, one player is denoted the “Dungeon Master.” The Dungeon Master is tasked with giving directions to other players, which Muraski testified mimics the organization of a gang. At bottom, his testimony about this policy aim highlighted Waupun’s worries about cooperative activity among inmates, particularly that carried out in an organized, hierarchical fashion. Muraski’s second asserted governmental interest in the D&D ban was inmate rehabilitation. He testified that D&D can “foster an inmate’s obsession with escaping from the real life, correctional environment, fostering hostility, violence and escape behavior,” which in turn “can compromise not only the inmate’s rehabilitation and effects of positive programming but also endanger the public and jeopardize the safety and security of the institution.”

Read that a couple times. The argument is basically that (1) any activity that involves a hierarchy mimics gang activity and thus can be barred and (2) anything that lets inmates have an imagination might hurt their chances at rehabilitation. The court seems to suggest that part of the problem is that Singer failed to directly answer specific questions or make the specific points he needed to in order to prevail — which is entirely possible. However, it still seems like a silly result all around.

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Comments on “Court Says Playing Dungeons & Dragons In Prisons Represents Gang Behavior”

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Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Well I don’t know about you, but all the D&D players I know are some of the hardest gangbangers around. You think Gary Gygax died of an aneurysm? No, he was quietly taken out to put an end to his massive organized crime empire. Crips, Bloods, Latin Kings, MS13 – those are all small time. They don’t hold a candle to the Wizards of the Coast.

freak (profile) says:

“highlighted Waupun’s worries about cooperative activity among inmates, particularly that carried out in an organized, hierarchical fashion”

I .. . wow, how vague is that?
What about . . . being in a prison? You have a hierarchy of command, with the admins at the top, and guards near there, with prisoners at the bottom . . . it’s very organized!

MarksAngel (profile) says:

The old school D&D might have been light gang activity compared to the new breed of RP players out there..this gang of MMORPG players is a few million strong and if you can’t do your role in killing whom they choose your gonna be taken out. They have uniform requirements in which each piece of clothing you wear is giving a rating and if your rating isn’t high enough then you are relegated to the level dog until it does.

Over and over again the sub-leaders of this massive organization gather together hovering over their computers using long distance communication to bark out orders and requirements which must be complied with or die. When will it end? Who will stop this horrible phenomenon of gang activity?


John GAcy

Our favorite mass murdered started a chapter of the Junior Chamber of Commerce while serving time for molesting a boy. Not only was he encouraged by the prison staff, this helped him gain early release so he could resume his activities. Of course the JC’s are a much more mainstream “gang” and therefore ok. Face it, when you are in prision, you are screwed. The only solution is to stay out.

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s just amazing to me the judge doesn’t see the real life and government in the same group of “gang” inducing behavior. Any time anyone from local police on up show up to enforce something, it takes no more than the slightest pretext and out comes the guns. Not just one as always the cops are calling for re-enforcement at the first sign of anything short of total capitulation, bringing yet more guns.

Yet the populace is to believe that this is not gang behavior because it’s their job eh?

If you go higher up the heirachy, the same plays true. Looks just like gang behavior. They got their special markings that give them identification within their groups that mostly don’t mean much to those outside the group.

So where does this gang mentality end? I can not see that allowing prisoner to game play, leads to greater crime. I’d rather seeing them game play than participating in jail breaking. Which to you seems like the lessor threat?

Or perhaps we ought to let them go back to exercising in the gyms? After all, where could that lead? (sarcasm mode on)

Cowardly Anon says:

The Dungeon Master is tasked with giving directions to other players…

Actually, the DM doesn’t give directions to the other players, the DM outlines scenarios of the story. The players then tell the DM what they do in each situation, to which the DM tells them the consequences of their actions and progresses the story.

Semantics maybe, but still quite a difference.

Joe GM says:

Re: Re:

Goodness knows that the GM/Player relationship is a little more complex than straight-up adversarial, but still more true than their allegations.

“Why would I do what Smitty says, he killed my level 3 fighter with a poison trap, and didn’t give me a saving throw!”

Any guesses on what I do with my Saturday nights? 🙂

I am One says:

Give me a f'n break!

You know what! It was probably some gang banger nigga who heard them playing, “I cast raise the dead lvl 7 on my fallen hero.” and he freaked out and went to the warden saying. “Yo yo, deese crazy white dudes were chanting something in dere cell bloc,, im telling yah crazy ass white boys up in there, talkin bout raisin the dead an chit.” Give me a break, fear w/o understanding kills alot of things that are harmless. Dont let that fear disrupt you. If its not hurting you, leave it alone. I could care less about what you do or dont believe in. Its called “imagination” take note everyone.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

just need a mage to put the guard asleep then take the key and break out.

Down the room and to the right is all of the party’s equipment, unfortunately, its guarded by the ruler of the prison AKA warden, but thats ok, because the thief smuggled in (dont ask how) a wand of fire balls, giving just enough fire power to grab the equipment and bust out.

Anonymous Coward says:

..because they claimed that D&D could keep people away from gang activity, and thus it’s “connected” to gang activity.

That reminds me of the constitutional right of the Federal government to regulate interstate commerce. They’ve expanded it to the point they’re making the claim that an individual declining to purchase something ‘affects’ interstate commerce, and hence the federal government can forbid you from not buying something.

(See the recent healthcare bill. It’s unlikely that provision will stand the constitutional challenge, but there are actually politicians making the above argument.)

Agamemaster says:

D&D Ruling does not extend to other RPG's!

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!!!!

Holy Cow says:

Here Comes Da Gang

How many times have we learned of crash/bang no knock entries to the “wrong address” by the “authorities” storming in to pillage, plunder, and (ahem) murder surprised occupants attempting to defend themselves? Many years ago when, as a teenager, I was being unfairly hassled by the “authorities” just because I was a teenager, and thus suspect (whether alone or in a group), I decided to join a larger gang: The Marines.

D&D FOREVER! says:

You cant stop the imagination!

I have been an avid fan of AD&D since the early ’90’s. Reading Dragon and Dungeon magazine, learning new maps and adventures. I also bought the AD&D cards which really enhanced my gameplay. You know what? Over Twenty years later, I contribute my love of AD&D to my ability to having a clearer view of my goals and my job. I am more focused and I will have to admit, not a day goes by when I don’t think of something in a “fantasy” setting. I love Lord of the Rings and AD&D. If they think that this degrades an inmates ability to recover, they have it all wrong.

D&D FOREVER! says:

Give me a f'n break!

I agree 100%. Everyone should read this one. If you eliminate your fear of D&D then you can make things better not just for you but for everyone else because I guarantee that those hardcore christian religious fanatics will try and try to push “their” beliefs in thinking that D&D is harmful. If you understand that it not harmful, then nothing will be said and “LIES” won’t be spread over something that person doesn’t understand. Just remember,, THE BIG BANG was the beginning and we EVOLVED from an early form of primates. PERIOD! Love D&D spread the work all 🙂

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