MADISON, Wis. — A man serving life in prison for first-degree intentional homicide lost his legal battle today to play Dungeons & Dragons behind bars.
Kevin T. Singer filed a federal lawsuit against officials at Wisconsin's Waupun prison, arguing that a policy banning all Dungeons & Dragons material violated his free speech and due process rights.
Prison officials instigated the Dungeons & Dragons ban among concerns that playing the game promoted gang-related activity and was a threat to security. Singer challenged the ban but the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday upheld it as a reasonable policy.
Dungeons & Dragons players create fictional characters and carry out their adventures, often working together as a group, with the help of complicated rules.
Singer, 33, has been a devoted player of the fantasy role-playing game since he was a child, according to the court ruling. After the ban went into effect, prison officials confiscated dozens of Dungeons & Dragons books and magazines in his cell as well as a 96-page manuscript he had written detailing a potential scenario for the game that players could act out.
Prison officials enacted the ban in 2004 after an inmate sent an anonymous letter expressing concern about Singer and three other inmates forming a "gang" focused around playing the game.
Singer was told by prison officials that he could not keep the materials because Dungeons & Dragons "promotes fantasy role playing, competitive hostility, violence, addictive escape behaviors, and possible gambling," according to the ruling. The prison later developed a more comprehensive policy against all types of fantasy games, the court said.
The appeals court said the prison's policy was reasonable and did not violate Singer's rights.
"After all, punishment is a fundamental aspect of imprisonment, and prisons may choose to punish inmates by preventing them from participating in some of their favorite recreations," the court said.
Singer was sentenced to life in prison in 2002 after being found guilty of first-degree intentional homicide in the killing of his sister's boyfriend. The man was bludgeoned to death with a sledgehammer.
Department of Corrections spokesman John Dipko said the department was pleased with the decision and will continue to enforce rules that are designed to maintain a safe environment.
Singer's court-appointed attorney, W.C. Turner Herbert of North Carolina, also did not immediately return a message seeking comment.