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58 inmates sue, say Iowa porn ban violates Constitutional rights

Jail cell block. (Bob Jagendorf/WikiCommons)
December 04, 2018

Federal lawsuits have been filed by 58 inmates serving prison sentences at Iowa’s Fort Dodge Correctional Facility alleging their constitutional rights have been violated by not being able to enjoy pornography while incarcerated.

Each of the 58 plaintiffs is seeking $25,000 in damages, according to the Des Moines Register.

Recently, Iowa prisons banned areas called “pornography reading rooms” and prohibited them from possessing nude photos.

The lawsuit, filed in October through the U.S. District Court in Des Moines, is led by 70-year-old Allen C. Miles, who was sentenced to life in prison for fatally stabbing Cheryl Kleinschrodt in 1982.

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The lawsuit alleges that the law was implemented solely under the false notion of “morality,” and it contends those “religious tyrants” disregard the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence.

The lawsuit also argues that female corrections officers with the state’s prison system “should find employment elsewhere” if they have a problem with male prisoners having nude photos of females.

The suit argues that nudity and self-pleasure are natural and that banning sexually explicit materials establishes “prejudice” against inmates by denying them a constitutional right, CNN reported.

The new changes began on Nov. 14, even banning Playboy magazine, which has always been acceptable across Iowa’s nine state prisons that house nearly 9,000 inmates.

The new law is specific and bans funds from being used “to distribute or make available any commercially published information or material to an inmate that is sexually explicit or features nudity.”

U.S. Judge Robert Pratt ordered that each of the 58 plaintiffs pay a $350 filing fee or ask for the fee to be waived.

He also told the plaintiffs to file a new complaint by Friday to proceed.

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In 1988, Chief U.S. District Judge Harold Vietor ruled that “Iowa’s prison rules on pornography were unconstitutionally vague and overbroad.”

Michael Savala, the Iowa prison system’s general counsel said, “The department really feels that inmates having access to that kind of material does not lend itself to pro-social thinking and behavior and as far as our responsibilities to change the mindset of the offender as they transition back into the community.”

The old law permitted prisoners to check out materials of a sexual nature and read them in a private area.

Upon completion, staff retrieved the materials and inspected it to ensure pages weren’t removed, and it was contraband free.

However, prison officials don’t want inmates to have access to pornography since the prison population is overloaded with sex offenders.

Democrat Sen. Rich Taylor, a retired Iowa State Penitentiary employee, opposes the bill and said the “changes ignore the fact that male inmates have a sexual drive.”

“That is just a fact and you have to have some way to relieve that. This gives the inmates no release point except another offender, and don’t think that it doesn’t happen. This will make it worse. They will have no other alternatives for their relief. I think that this is a bad idea,” Taylor said.

Cord Overton, a spokesman for the Iowa Department of Corrections, said inmates were told of the November changes back in July so they could plan to cancel subscriptions.

He added, “Operationally, department leadership advised the incarcerated individuals and staff that after the 14th of November, we would not be ‘shaking the institution down,’ but any pornography found during the course of a routine search might lead to discipline. We have had no real issues so far.”

A spokesman for the Iowa Department of Corrections declined to comment on the suit.