Federal Judge Rules South Dakota Prison Porn Ban Overly Broad

LOS ANGELES—In a lawsuit that has dragged on for nearly a decade, a federal judge on Monday ruled that South Dakota prison system policy that bans porn for inmates is unconstitutional, because it is too “sweeping” and could actually prevent prisoners from reading the Bible or many works of great literature, according to a report by The Argus Leader newspaper. The lawsuit brought by inmate Charles Sisney, who is serving a life sentence for the murder of his girlfriend, made it all the way to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2018, but the appellate court sent it back to the federal South Dakota District Court.  This week, Senior District Court Judge Lawrence Piersol ruled that while the state may ban porn for inmates, the restrictions went too far in banning any image of nudity, or written content with sexual descriptions. “The present policy bans written material with any sexual content,” Piersol wrote. “That means the potential of banning the Bible and much of Shakespeare, not to mention all of the fiction of John Updike, Phillip Roth, Ernest Hemingway, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, to name a few,” Piersol wrote in his opinion.  Piersol’s ruling does not strike down the prison porn ban in its entirety, however. His ruling evaluated items that were barred from Sisney’s possession on a case-by-case basis, deciding that a Coppertone sunscreen magazine advertisement could be banned because it depicted a nude child, and that comic books containing nudity and sexual themes could also be prohibited. But an art book that depicted nudity, including paintings by Michaelangelo, was permissible under the ruling, as were literary works that described sex scenes. “A ban this sweeping has no rational relation to legitimate penological interests. The prisoners have no alternate reasonable means of access to such literature,” Piersol wrote. Prison porn bans have been the subject of legal action in several states over recent years. Last year, a judge in Iowa ruled that inmates in that state’s prison system may possess nude images, but only those that are “non-sexually explicit.”  The state judge in that case held that banning all nude images from prisons “indeed interferes with the constitutional rights of the inmates.” Photo By Alexius Horatius / Wikimedia Commons 

written by: Lawrence Avery

source: Federal Judge Rules South Dakota Prison Porn Ban Overly Broad | AVN

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