No D&D for you, if you are serving life

I just found this news at BoingBoing and thought I should share it with you:

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.

As I understand it the punishment is that you are imprisoned for life, so what’s the problem with letting the prison inmate play some D&D? Banning the game for him and the other inmates will probably not have any beneficial aspect. And I always thought, resocializing was a fundamental aspect of imprisonment, too. And how does D&D promote “competitive hostility, violence, addictive escape behaviors, and possible gambling”?

You can read more about this, on BoingBoing or at InsideBayArea.

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

13 thoughts on “No D&D for you, if you are serving life”

  1. Maybe someone on the high channels thought that allowing prison inmates to "evade" even in their imagination was against prison punishment objectives.

    Dice = Gambling.

    Not that much people always understands what different dice than D6 are for, and probably seeing he had a handful of them looked like some compulsive behaviour.

  2. Eh, I don't have much sympathy for people imprisoned for life. Life means you f'ed up big (you know: murder, rape, molestation, those kinds of things), in my mind, most lifers should be lucky they're breathing.

    The point of prison is to deprive the prisoners of freedoms, because they have (most likely) deprived other people of their freedoms. We're not talking about the county jail where you find inmates of a less severe variety (in which case I say let them play).

    But that probably crosses into another territory of thought not for this blog.

    Here is some additional reasoning, from @Muskrat_John on Twitter:

    "A friend who works in a prison has shed some light on D&D ban: 'Anything that could be used to create factions, pass coded information or let people practice manipulating others is not going to be allowed in prison.'"
    .-= Mad Brew´s last blog ..Heroic Minis Database =-.

  3. @Mad Brew: I have a different stance on that subject, but I guess that was already made clear in the post itself. And I agree, we shouldn't discuss this here.

    The additional reasoning brought up by @Muskrat_John would actually make much more sense than what the court said. But if such a rule was in effect, why did the court ban D&D because it – I quote – "promotes fantasy role playing, competitive hostility, violence, addictive escape behaviors, and possible gambling"? We'll probably never know…

  4. Well I have opinions about this because of how I feel about the justice/prison systems, but here is not the place to discuss that… I would think that a mental health professional could see that the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. I can understand how with some criminals the game could turn into a problem but this sort of thing can also be used for the benefit of the inmate. I’ll go now, otherwise I’ll rant!

  5. Sorry, can't say I feel sorry for lifers, no matter what erroneous interpretation is used about D&D here.

  6. Initially, it did seem a but unfair to me. But then I considered that (in the UK at any rate) prisoners also have games consoles and board games taken away from them.

    At the same time they get access to other activities – school and college qualification classes, woodwork and craft training, sporting events and in some prisons, even prison radio facilities. I think these probably do a lot more to help rehabilitation then D&D.

    Not to mention, if you can carry on with everything you could do outside of prison, in prison, it wouldn't be much of a punishment.
    .-= Hammer´s last blog ..Some Hobbies Are More Expensive Then Others =-.

  7. I'm a bookseller and was shocked to find this out a few years back when a mom tried to send her son some D&D books. Yep, "gang" related materials was the verdict. I could more understand the "these hardcover books could be used to hurt someone" gambit instead.
    .-= Beth´s last blog ..The Spa of My Enemy =-.

  8. Since the inmate was a lifer, I can't say I have a great deal of sympathy. Especially one in for murder.

    For those serving time for non-violent crimes this would be ridiculous. Getting them to socialize in a positive and constructive manner using teamwork and problem solving skills is only beneficial to their reintegration into society. Besides the game can be a good reminder/learning experience of how to deal with moral and ethical issues. If the prison's policy includes all inmates then someone should point out the error of their policy.
    .-= Geek Gazette´s last blog ..My new favorite old comic may be my next RPG campaign =-.

  9. I've seen the reactions to this all over the net, both on gaming sites and not.

    It's simple, this guys in for killing someone else, for life. It was a murder one. he got life for it. This is a punishment. Bet the guy he killed had things he liked doing too.

    Not getting to hang around for the rest of the time playing D&D… that's just cake.

    1. @Kenn: I think being imprisoned for life is punishment enough. Letting him keep his D&D books wouldn't have hurt anyone. And even a person who has taken a life should be treated as a human being.

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