Is Porn A Prisoner’s Right?

Via the Daily Beast today comes the story of Kyle Richards, a 21-year-old prisoner being held for bank robbery at the Macomb County Jail in Michigan. Richards recently filed a lawsuit against the State of Michigan and Governor Rick Snyder, claiming his civil rights are being violated because the jailer won’t allow him to possess “adult” magazines.

In a handwritten lawsuit, Richards makes the argument that denying his request for porn subjects him to a “poor standard of living” and “sexual and sensory deprivation.”

According to CBS News, the Michigan Department of Corrections does allow pornographic material, within certain guidelines, but the material is banned from the county jail where Richards is currently housed.

Mansfield Frazier, a columnist for the Daily Beast, thinks that by denying the porn, the Sheriff is imposing a policy that is indefensible in court.

I agree with him.

The American Civil Liberties Union says prisons have a lot of leeway in this area, but it seems to me that by allowing individual Sheriffs and people in power to make arbitrary decisions about what kinds of sexual materials are allowed to prisoners, we are going down a very slippery slope. Plus, I’d assume that a sexually satisfied prisoner would probably be more well-behaved in prison than a sexually frustrated one.

This is just my opinion, as someone who has never been to prison but feels passionately about sex positivity and fighting anti-sex and anti-porn moral crusades. But it’s far from a thorough legal analysis. Lawyers, corrections officers, masturbators/porn enthusiasts out there: what do you think?

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman is a writer and advocate focusing on race, gender, and sexual and reproductive rights. In addition to her work at Feministing, Lori is an Associate Director at Planned Parenthood Global. Lori has previously worked at the United Nations Foundation, the International Women’s Health Coalition, and Human Rights Watch, and has written for a host of print and digital properties including Rookie Magazine, The Grio, and the New York Times Magazine. She regularly appears on radio and television, and has spoken at college campuses across the U.S. about topics like the politics of black hair, transnational movement building, and the undercover feminism of Nicki Minaj. In 2014, she was named to The Root 100 list of the nation's most influential African Americans, and to the Forbes Magazine list of the "30 Under 30" successful people in media.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

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