A group of Iowa prison inmates are suing to block a new law banning pornography in the state’s prisons, dismissing the rule as an unconstitutional act of “religious tyrants” trying to impose morality by force.
Led by Allen Curtis Miles, a lifer locked up for first-degree murder, 58 inmates of the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility are seeking $25,000 each in damages, alleging the ban violates their constitutional rights.
The creatively-written suit also claims the ban was unlawfully inflicted by a “Dominatrix sect or a government contrived of Nazis” under the banner of “morality” and that it represents a form of extortion by withholding federal funds from prisons that make pornographic materials available.
Judge Robert Pratt of the US District Court in Des Moines initially refused the suit for lacking the proper paperwork and fees, but permitted the inmates to refile this week with the proper procedural formalities.
The law shuts down the “pornography reading rooms” that attempted to impose some institutional control over the inmates’ porn consumption and bans inmates from possessing nude photos in their cells. It went into effect earlier this month across Iowa’s nine state prisons.
The “reading rooms” were established after a 1988 federal court ruling found the state’s ban on sexually explicit materials in prisons to be vague to the point of unconstitutionality.
The prisoners’ suit echoes that original decision. Terms like “explicit nudity” are too vague to legislate, they say, adding that these terms stem from enforced religious morality and that attempting to impose them on the inmate population violates the separation of church and state, but it’s difficult to tell what the writers had in mind in some places.
“If God wanted us clothed, he would have adorned unborn with linens prior to birth,” reads one point. The inmates also argue that if female correctional officers can’t handle the sight of an occasional nude picture, they should seek employment elsewhere.
The prison system has changed significantly since the 1980s, according to the porn ban’s proponents. In addition to the skyrocketing inmate population, there is a considerably higher percentage of sex offenders, who were never permitted to examine porn materials even under the old system.
Others consider the “reading rooms” a waste of resources – a staff member has to escort the inmate to the room, wait until they’re “finished,” escort them back, and then examine the item to be sure it wasn’t tampered with. “When we discussed this issue with lawmakers, the broad point was that any staff time spent supervising these types of activities was staff time that could be spent more productively,” explained Iowa Department of Corrections spokesman Cord Overton.
Iowa Senator Rich Taylor, however, disagreed. “Males have a certain chemistry and I think that this is going to cause, if they don’t have a way to relieve their sexual frustrations other than other offenders, that they’re going to find another way and I’m just afraid that that other way is on other inmates or even possibly staff. I think it’s a bad move for the prisons to do this.”