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.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    Marcus Carab (profile), Jan 28th, 2011 @ 11:31am

    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.

     

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    Killer_Tofu (profile), Jan 28th, 2011 @ 11:49am

    I'll Show Him

    Take away my +5 vorpal sword. If I can't play with it, NOBODY CAN!

     

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      Berenerd (profile), Jan 28th, 2011 @ 12:34pm

      Re: I'll Show Him

      YOU CAN HAVE MY +5 HOLY AVENGER WHEN YOU RIP IT FROM MY COLD DEAD...ohhh...boobies...

       

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      imbrucy (profile), Jan 28th, 2011 @ 12:55pm

      Re: I'll Show Him

      Someone from /. said the same thing. The original article you are thinking of I believe was about the filing of this case. Just the fact that the took it away from him because it represented a gang was news but this decision to support that on appeal is even crazier.

       

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        Killer_Tofu (profile), Jan 31st, 2011 @ 7:00am

        Re: Re: I'll Show Him

        Rather sad somebody said that on /. as I had not read the article there. I certainly hope it was different and just had the same idea / feel.

         

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    Jay (profile), Jan 28th, 2011 @ 11:58am

    One thing...

    Mike, that story is a year old if I remember correctly. Wonder what the updated status is on it?

     

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    freak (profile), Jan 28th, 2011 @ 12:12pm

    "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!

     

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      Berenerd (profile), Jan 28th, 2011 @ 12:36pm

      Re:

      and its also keeping them from doing some gang related activities...SO ITS DEFINITELY PART OF A GANG!!!

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2011 @ 5:26pm

      Re:

      And for that matter, what about politics? You're dealing with hierarchical organizations responsible for large numbers of heavily armed troops... sounds like a perfect storm for corruption and gang activity.

       

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    MarksAngel (profile), Jan 28th, 2011 @ 12:19pm

    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?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2011 @ 12:21pm

    "foster an inmate's obsession with escaping from the real life..."

    So they'll be banning works of fiction from the prison library I presume?

     

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      RikuoAmero (profile), Jan 28th, 2011 @ 12:33pm

      Re:

      Like the Bible I hope? After all, where D&D teaches inmates about sorcery, the Bible teaches them that if you obey a great booming voice from the sky, then its okay to murder, pillage, rape and enslave entire races.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2011 @ 12:23pm

    How does that make sense?

    It doesn't make sense to you because you are but a mere commoner. You have to be a federal judge to have the ability to understand such things.

     

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    Nathan F (profile), Jan 28th, 2011 @ 12:26pm

    Good GMs

    As a player of DnD for 11 years now I have seen a great many DMs. The good ones don't tell the players what to do, they merely tell the players what happens when they make their own decisions.

     

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      Hugh Mann (profile), Jan 28th, 2011 @ 1:51pm

      Re: Good GMs

      Yes. The DM is not the "leader" in the sense that the prison officials seem to be thinking. He/she merely sets teh stage. The group of adventurers may, of course, have their own "leader", but my experience is that it was often fairly cooperative, rather than leader/follower.

      HM

       

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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Jan 28th, 2011 @ 12:26pm

    Um...

    "By that reasoning anything that someone does that keeps them away from joining a gang is automatically considered, itself, a gang activity."

    Prisons are used to keep some people away from gangs.

     

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    ASTROBOI, Jan 28th, 2011 @ 12:33pm

    Re: 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.

     

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    Jesse, Jan 28th, 2011 @ 12:41pm

    The surest way to rehabilitate prisoners is to make sure they have nothing to get them from one day to the next. That will most definitely remove the appeal of criminal activity.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jan 28th, 2011 @ 12:47pm

    Am I the only one?

    "positive programming"

    ....that flashed back to A Clockwork Orange when they read that?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2011 @ 12:49pm

    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)

     

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    keiichi969 (profile), Jan 28th, 2011 @ 12:57pm

    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
    Looks like he rolled a natural 1 on his Persuade check.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2011 @ 12:59pm

    I am sure his murdering someone was also due to playing DnD, no? Everyone knows just how evil DnD is...

     

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    Gill Bates, Jan 28th, 2011 @ 1:04pm

    Contradiction

    Didn't most people just say that words and images do not promote bad behavior (violence) - after Ms. Giffords was shot?

    Ms. Palins website and radio jocks did NOT cause or add to the probability of the shooting?

    Well, then how can rock lyrics or games do exactly that when similar activity doesn't ??

     

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    reboog711 (profile), Jan 28th, 2011 @ 1:06pm

    Next up: Going to Church

    I am more prone to be scared of folks going to church than those playing D&D.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2011 @ 1:11pm

    So, according to this testamony, military and police organizations are all gangs because they do things "in an organized, hierarchical fashion."

    Also, all television, music and literature should be banned because people use them to excape from real life.

    Abolutely absurd.

     

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    johnny canada, Jan 28th, 2011 @ 1:32pm

    The description they use for D&D and Gangs sound like organized religion to me (any religion)

     

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    Cowardly Anon, Jan 28th, 2011 @ 1:44pm

    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.

     

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      crade (profile), Jan 28th, 2011 @ 1:55pm

      Re:

      Yeah, it isn't really a hierarchy setup at all. The DM and the players are on opposite sides competing against each other.

       

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        Joe GM, Jan 28th, 2011 @ 2:30pm

        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? :)

         

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    Hugh Mann (profile), Jan 28th, 2011 @ 1:45pm

    Isn't the prison itself hierarchical?

    There's a warden, a bunch of staff, guards who travel through the labarynth of the prison in groups . . . .

    Sounds like maybe the prison needs to become an autonomous collective.

    HM

     

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      Eugene (profile), Jan 28th, 2011 @ 2:28pm

      Re: Isn't the prison itself hierarchical?

      Whenever you sign your posts, it looks like you're actually saying "hm", but since it's in caps, I read it as a loud "hm" mean to identify the fact that you're making a point. But it always seems to fit perfectly.

       

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    I am One, Jan 28th, 2011 @ 1:54pm

    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.

     

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      crade (profile), Jan 28th, 2011 @ 2:04pm

      Re: Give me a f'n break!

      oh the irony

       

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      D&D FOREVER!, Jan 31st, 2011 @ 5:27am

      Re: 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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        Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2011 @ 6:00am

        Re: Re: Give me a f'n break!

        We know you agree 100%. We read your first post... which was as batshit-insane as your second.

         

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    Joe Bastard Sword, Jan 28th, 2011 @ 2:10pm

    guess it would make sense if the Dungeon Master created a setting where the inmates had to break out of an "orc" prison, and started planning an organized escape, lol. Better hope they get some good Thac0 rolls and win some saving throws.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2011 @ 2:34pm

      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.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2011 @ 6:02am

        Re: Re:

        Dude, you're well on your way to dessing up as an orc and running around your local park pretending you're gandalf... even though you're probably 46.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2011 @ 5:31pm

      Re:

      Thac0? Haven't played 2nd Ed. since the 90's...

       

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    Joe GM, Jan 28th, 2011 @ 2:26pm

    Heh

    Is it telling that this is one of the more active threads today?

    The D&D prejudice in prisons is nothing new really. I wish I could remember where I first heard it, but the game was originally discouraged in some prisons because of the dice.

    Leads to gamblin', you know.

     

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    Ron Rezendes (profile), Jan 28th, 2011 @ 2:29pm

    Hide the chess sets!

    Hide the chess sets! Hide the chess sets!

    Holy crap - a "gang" of white pieces vs. a gang of black pieces - it's racial and gang related and certainly won't help with your rehabilitation!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2011 @ 2:44pm

    ..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.)

     

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    robin low, Jan 28th, 2011 @ 6:29pm

    Someone's character got killed.

    Someone playing the game has his character killed or raped... Went to complain about the "gang" wielding swords and magic.

    I wonder if people go to prison to join the campaign? Do they have a Jailcon once a year that was canceled too?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2011 @ 7:09pm

    Weird correlation..

    People who play D&D are often seeked out for positions in the intelligence community too.

    Maybe theyre afraid that gang bangers will be smarter than the intel community...

     

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    Agamemaster, Jan 28th, 2011 @ 7:34pm

    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
    activities."
    If I were him, I would start playing Runequest, Rolemaster, Palladium, Warhammer FRPG, White Wolf and other RPGS!!!!

     

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      D&D FOREVER!, Jan 31st, 2011 @ 5:35am

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

      Hells yes! Who is to say he couldn't create his own RPG as well? The possibilities are endless my friend. :)

       

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    Michael Tresca, Jan 28th, 2011 @ 7:51pm

    Old News

    You know that controversy over the D&D prison ban? That happened a year ago.

    http://www.examiner.com/rpg-in-national/geeks-are-sexy-correction-on-d-d-prison-controversy

     

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    Holy Cow, Jan 30th, 2011 @ 10:37am

    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.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2011 @ 3:00pm

      Re: Here Comes Da Gang

      ...and (ahem) murder surprised occupants attempting to defend themselves?

      See? That's why private ownership of weapons, especially guns, should be outlawed. People just get themselves killed.
      /s

       

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    D&D FOREVER!, Jan 31st, 2011 @ 5:19am

    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.

     

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    Cast lightning bolt ~~~~@@ Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2011 @ 6:10am

    give it up

    Anonymous, anonymous, LARP hater.

     

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    Lai-Lai, Apr 7th, 2013 @ 5:09am

    It's just inhumane. If I was in jail, D&D would be the only thing I had to keep me sane, social, & entertained.

     

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