Two inmates are suing the Indiana Department of Correction to overturn a new policy that bars magazines and other printed materials that depict nudity or sexual conduct. The lawsuit filed today at the U.S. District Court in Indianapolis seeks class-action status on behalf of more than 20,000 state prisoners and challenges a policy that went into effect July 1 barring adult magazines such as Playboy and Hustler and the motorcycle magazine Easyriders.

You know, it doesn’t matter how much corrections officers are making, they are officially not paid enough. Their sole focus is corralling the worst elements society has to offer. First cable was taken out of prisons. Then they banned cigarettes. And now they have banned … relief. If prisons weren’t powder kegs waiting to blow before, I surely wouldn’t want to be the guard in charge of enforcing this policy. I guess it boils down to your view of what prisons should be: punitive or rehabilitative.

I think that the knee-jerk reaction is to say that prisons are meant to be harsh. That the prisoners are not entitled to any of the freedoms we take for granted, as long as their treatment is not cruel or unusual, which a lack of porn does not fall into. Maybe my vision of what prison is like is shaped too much by Oz, but I don’t buy the idea of a country club prison. At the very least, you are cut off from your friends and family, existing, your every movement dictated by someone else. It’s not a life and it’s not your own. Luxuries to entertain or pass the time more quickly – from cable to video games, to porn – aren’t rights.

But they do help you to retain some measure of sanity. And sometimes, humanity.

On the rehabilitative side of things, I can’t help but think that they’d be better off without it. While some people would argue against this, we’re back to asking ourselves how does porn form us and into what does it form us? It’s not a celebration of beauty or sex. There is no story with which to interact (so no reviews of “Guzzling Sluts III” for Hollywood Jesus from me). It reduces sex to the act, the mechanics, teaches/reinforces objectification and communicates physical gratification as the endgame of sex. Pornography creates unreal dreams/expectations about sex, deadens libido for sex with real people, and people are reduced to means to an end. In the end, porn makes sex individualistic, something done alone. Personally, I try to think about how one pouring the time spent chasing porn into spending time with their spouse would increase the healthiness of their relationship.

Though somehow I doubt these are pressing issues for one and their cell mate.

Hmm. Maybe we need to ban prisoner access to law libraries. When you outlaw porn, only outlaws will have porn. Or something like that.

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