Dozens of Iowa prisoners sue state over pornography ban

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Some Iowa prisoners say they want their pornography back and are challenging a new regulation banning pornographic magazines from state prisons.

In the 26-page federal lawsuit, inmates at the Fort Dodge Correctional Institution make references to Nazism, tyranny and the Bible, KCCO reports.

They also say if female guards can’t handle seeing pornographic images, “they should find employment elsewhere.”

The lawsuit argues that new state regulations, spurred by a law requiring state prisons to ban porn and shut down so-called pornographic reading rooms, is unconstitutional.

Frequent prison litigator Allen Curtis Miles, who is serving a life sentence for stabbing a Des Moines woman to death in 1982, was joined by 57 other Fort Dodge inmates, asking to end the ban and requesting $25,000 each.

A federal judge struck down a ban on porn in Iowa prisons 30 years ago for being too vague. The rules began this month.

Mark Kende, director of the Drake University Constitutional Law Center, said the regulations are much more specific, and the current law is much more likely to be upheld.

“Because of that specificity and because it excludes educational material, it might actually be OK,” Kende said.

“Prisoners generally have rights to access — absent some incredibly dangerous person — (including) reading materials. And they have constitutional rights. Even though they’re in prison, the rights are diminished, but they have them.”

The prisoners argue the new rules ban magazines such as Playboy and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.

Kende said their lawsuit might be inarticulate, but unlike plenty of other prisoner-filed lawsuits he’s seen over the years, it is not frivolous.

“Nudity definitely doesn’t equal obscenity, so that’s why there’s something to the argument that’s being made by these prisoners that some of this stuff might be protected,” Kende said.

Ultimately, it will be up for a judge to decide.

A Department of Corrections spokesman said the agency can’t comment directly on pending litigation.

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