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No Dice: How America's Prisons Are Getting Rid of Nerds

Our guest blogger, humorist Neil Janowitz, takes on the best news you may have missed.

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An incarcerated rogue's campaign to be able to play Dungeons & Dragons in his Wisconsin prison has been ended by a trio of naysaying dungeon masters in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Longtime RPG enthusiast Kevin Singer was convicted in 2002 for bludgeoning and stabbing his sister's boyfriend. He received a life sentence and, presumably, the scorn of image-conscious paladins the world over. But two years after arriving at Waupun Correctional Institute, Singer got word that the game had been banned, and his materials were confiscated. He then filed suit, because this is America, where men who are locked for eternity in a bleak prison cell can fight for their right to play a game in which they imagine themselves as a character locked in a bleak dungeon.

In making their decision to uphold the ban, the U.S. judges cited the conclusions of prison officials, who felt that enabling prisoners to play games like Dungeons and Dragons could give way to violence or a desire to escape. There was no mention of whether prohibiting an inmate from participating in the one ostensibly harmless activity that gives him any semblance of joy could possibly be blamed for violent tendencies. Nor did the officials explain why the prison, a facility singularly tasked with keeping its population inside its walls, was worried about dreams of a breakout. But Waupun reps did add that the game could foster gang behavior, which is true, particularly if a few high elves wind up on the same block.

Predictably, hosts of gamers and activists are decrying the court's ruling. Chief among their arguments is the fact that no correlation has ever been made between these types of games and violent behavior. Except for the fact that enthusiast Kevin Singer was convicted in 2002 for bludgeoning and stabbing his sister's boyfriend. But who wants to dwell on that?

—Neil Janowitz

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