D&D a “threat” says Court of Appeals

A few days ago the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals decided that Dungeons & Dragons presented a “threat” to prison security. Kevin T. Singer, an inmate at Wisconsin’s Waupun Correctional Institution, was so devoted that it raised concern among the guards. He wrote, by hand, “a ninety six page manuscript outlining the specific details of a “campaign setting” he developed for use in D&D gameplay.”

For well over two years, no one thought twice about Singer’s regular incoming stream of D&D mailings. This changed when Bruce Muraski, Waupun’s “Disruptive Group Coordinator,” received an anonymous letter from an inmate expressing 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.” (3)

Maruski decided to “check into this gang before it gets out of hand,” and ordered a search. After reviewing all the materials (21 books, 14 magazines and Singer’s manuscript), Maruski concluded that all of it related to D&D. Nonetheless, he informed Singer that

““inmates are not allowed to engage in or possess written material that details rules, codes, dogma of games/activities such as ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ because it promotes fantasy role playing, compet- itive hostility, violence, addictive escape behaviors, and possible gambling.” This prohibition was later reiterated in a daily bulletin that was posted throughout the prison. It was also incorporated into a broader policy prohibiting inmates from engaging in all types of fantasy games.” (4)

Singer and his friends protested, of course, but the assigned examiner dismissed their complaint. Instead, Singer argued, D&D helped to “rehabilitate inmates and prevents them from joining gangs and engaging in other undesirable activities.” (5)

In response, Waupun had Maruski (“a gang specialist”) testify that RPGs like D&D

“have been found to promote competitive hostility, violence, and addictive escape behavior, which can compromise not only the inmate’s rehabilitation and effects of positive programming, but endanger the public and jeopardize the safety and security of the institution.” (10)

A key statement in this case was Maruski’s comment 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.” (10)

Singer’s motion was denied.

PDF here.

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