Prisons ban "Dungeons"

Y’know, it’s sort of ironic: the word “brouhaha” is funny in the same way that the Seventh Curcuit’s decision to uphold the Waupun Correctional Institution’s ban on “Dungeons and Dragons” is funny.

Had you not heard? Well yes, it’s indeed true: a correctional institution in Wisconsin has caused something of a brouhaha by deciding that inmates ought not to be allowed to play “Dungeons and Dragons” at the esteemed facility. Apparently the overwhelming nerdiness of it all might lead to gang behavior and “fantasies about escape,” according to The New York Times.

It’s sort of interesting, because I’ve always been under the impression that gang behavior in prisons is promoted by, well, the existence of gangs in prisons.

The argument posed by the Waupun Correctional Institution’s gang specialist Captain Muraski, according to law blog Volokh.com, is that the structure of “Dungeons and Dragons” mimics the structure of gangs.

In “Dungeons and Dragons,” there is a “Dungeon Master” (Henceforth referred to as DM) who guides players through the narrative of the game. In gangs, there are gang leaders who lead subordinates in gang-like behavior.

There are, however, some distinctions between D&D and gangs that the general readership might find interesting.  In D&D, players’ fantasies play out in the imaginary world of the mind, which is somewhat different from the tangible world of people. In gangs, players’ fantasies get played out in brutal, bloody 3D.

Yes, of course I know that you’re aware of this. I think it’s an important fact to state, though, because it illustrates the absurdities of how correctional facilities prioritize.  Instead of regulating actual, horrific gang behavior, Waupun is trying to regulate the minds of inmates.

Let’s remember that correctional institutes deal with felons, not five–year–olds.

Sure, a child might only ponder the themes of D&D if exposed to it; a grown inmate, however, is probably not changing his philosophy on violence, much less human social structures, because of a masturbatory hobby. If anything, D&D should provide a healthy outlet for the fantasies that inmates already have.

The alternative of gangs, of course, is right on the playground if the incarcerated don’t have safer options.

Maybe the Waupun Correctional Institution should reassess its priorities. It is true, of course, that the general public would rather not have convicted felons escaping from prison and wreaking havoc.

Correctional facilities are referred to as such, however, because they’re supposed to rehabilitate individuals, rather than card such a vast population (2,424,279 people in the U.S. territories were incarcerated, in 2008, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics) off into the bottomless pits of society.

Sure, there are some people who can’t be helped- that’s why mental institutions exist.

Instead of feebly trying to “correct” the thoughts of inmates (What happens when they leave prison and are free to play Dungeons and Dragons at their leisure?), the prison system in the United States should be facilitating healthy behavior and inmate relationships; the incarcerated should be practicing good, neighborly citizenship, because that’s what they’ll have to do when they get out of prison.

Unfortunately, this is an ideal that is difficult to foster when, as surmised by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, roughly 43,800 current inmates have been raped during incarceration.

As New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof pointed out in his column from January 27, entitled “Kids in Crisis (Behind Bars),” “Surveys have found that well-managed prisons and correctional facilities with strong accountability have almost no rape, by guards or inmates. Others have astonishingly high levels. If we want to rehabilitate young offenders and help them get their lives in order, a starting point is to end the criminal abuse of them.”

Prisons shouldn’t be punishing the felonious geeks for the shortcomings of the penal system. Instead, prisons should be reassessing the system itself.