The ACLU Is Not Suing To Put Porn in Jails

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

I mentioned yesterday that the story about the ACLU suing for prisoners in South Carolina to receive pornography sounded suspicious. With good reason. Here’s the actual lawsuit:

The American Civil Liberties Union today asked a federal judge to immediately block enforcement of a policy at a South Carolina jail that effectively bans many books, magazines and newspapers from being sent to prisoners.

In a motion seeking an order enjoining the ban, the ACLU charges that officials at the Berkeley County Detention Center in Moncks Corner, S.C. are unconstitutionally refusing to allow prisoners to receive any materials that contain staples or pictures of any level of nudity, including beachwear or underwear.

“This is nothing more than an excuse by jail officials to ban books and magazines for no good reason,” said David Shapiro, staff attorney with the ACLU National Prison Project. “There is no justification for denying detainees access to periodicals and in the process cutting them off from the outside world.”

After the ACLU filed a lawsuit last year challenging an unconstitutional policy at the jail barring all books, magazines and newspapers – except for the Bible – from being sent to prisoners, jail officials responded by claiming they only banned materials containing staples and any degree of nudity. But as the ACLU points out in its motion, jail officials were selling detainees legal pads with staples in them at the jail commissary even as they were claiming to ban publications with staples as a supposed security risk.

“Jail officials are looking for any excuse they can come up with to obscure the fact that they are unconstitutionally censoring materials sent to detainees,” said Victoria Middleton, Executive Director of the ACLU of South Carolina. “And in so doing they are failing to serve the detainees and the taxpayers of South Carolina. Helping prisoners rehabilitate themselves and maintain a connection to the outside world by reading books and magazines is a key part of what should be our larger and fiscally prudent objective of reducing the number of people we lock up by lowering recidivism rates.”

KABC, the source of the story, didn’t quote anyone from the ACLU in its article, only a jail official, who spun it as a story about porn. That’s when it was picked up by Drudge, at which point it spread out over the web.

Here’s more, from the NY Daily News:

“The latest thing they have come up with in response for preliminary injunction was the notion that we are trying to allow pornography into the jail. Absolutely nothing could be further for the truth,” ACLU spokesman Will Matthews told the Daily News.

Matthews said the jail’s policy was simply too broad. He pointed to a mail room clerk at the jail who told the organization that prisoners were previously banned from receiving a publication with a Venus de Milo sculpture and a copy of the Washington Post because it contained an ad with women in lingerie.

“None of this is to suggest that jails must permit pornography,” the injunction states. “Merely that a jail cannot constitutionally ban all publications that sometimes show men and women wearing underwear or dressed for the beach.”

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30 Responses to “The ACLU Is Not Suing To Put Porn in Jails”

  1. #1 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Still…jails could use a better porn policy. It is about #970 on the list of things they need to do better, but it is still needed to get US jails out of the 1700s.

  2. #2 |  Carl Drega | 

    Did our humble Agitator get bested by Drudge on a photography in public story?

    http://baltimore.cbslocal.com/2011/06/01/mta-officers-detain-man-for-taking-pictures/

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JOFwbiI8fQ&feature=related

  3. #3 |  the innominate one | 

    Too bad KABC can’t be sued for journalistic malpractice and public obscenity (fellating authority).

  4. #4 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    Don’t they have hookers available in Mexican jails?
    I mean, seriously, no sex (or even exposure to females) for a year or more.
    Isn’t that cruel and most unusual?

  5. #5 |  jppatter | 

    Imagine that. A lazy reporter just taking a government official’s word for something. I’m shocked.

  6. #6 |  MassHole | 

    Is there another organization out there that takes more undeserved and ignorant abuse?

    They took god out of the schools! American Communist Lovers Union, etc.

  7. #7 |  marco73 | 

    Darn. The facts really let the air out of that story.

  8. #8 |  BoscoH | 

    The jail’s policy sounds like the iOS App Store. Why not just give the prisoners iPads?

  9. #9 |  Zeb | 

    Why not let prisoners have pornography? It seems plausible that it might reduce the incidence of rape if more inmates are regularly reminded what pussy looks like.

  10. #10 |  Cyto | 

    #2 | Carl Drega |

    I was just about to post on the same issue. It is definitely crossing over to “mainstream” if Drudge is on the bandwagon. Now if only there was someone over at Huffington Post who was sympathetic to the issue….

    The shocking thing from the CBS story was that the MTA officials acknowledged that there was a problem with the officer’s conduct and suggested that they might provide additional training. That’s pretty rare. It seems more often than not you’ll have the police chief staunchly defending his team on the 6 o’clock news and suggesting that the whole thing is some sort of extremist plot.

  11. #11 |  Highway | 

    MTA cops are your typical bottom of the barrel cops. Hell, they probably can’t get hired as mall cops. So you get 5’3″ 240 pound women driving FWD MTA ‘police’ cars around and leaning on the station escalators. They probably thought they were standing up for Truth, Justice, and the American Way by hassling some guy on an open-to-the-street light rail platform.

  12. #12 |  Cyto | 

    #4 | Yizmo Gizmo |

    Well, how are you gonna get all that prison rape if you give them an alternate outlet to their frustrations? Then where would we be!? Don’t tell me you are for coddling the inmates?

  13. #13 |  Dave Krueger | 

    I’d have more respect for them if they actually stood up for the right of the prisoners to have porn. I mean they’re already in fucking prison, so it’s not like it’s going to lead to sexual dysfunction between them and their wives or girl friends.

    Unfortunately porn still suffers from enough of a stigma that most people are perfectly willing to let government control it. You know, it’s like saying fuck on TV. It’s just soooooo damaging that it’s a foregone conclusion that people need be protected from it.

  14. #14 |  Highway | 

    Yeah, people need to be protected from hearing “fuck” but hearing “f_ck” or “f{bee}k” where *everyone* knows what’s been said somehow makes it ok for our tender sensibilities. And if it happens to slip out, you gotta apologize for it (like at the end of the NASCAR 600 race on Sunday, when they stupidly opened the radio of Jimmie Johnson as his car blew up, and his crew chief said “You gotta be fucking kidding!”)

  15. #15 |  FridayNext | 

    Can’t all images of a person be construed as containing some “level of nudity”? A woman in a hijab with only her eyes showing contains an admittedly low level of nudity, but it is still a level. Or is a “level of nudity” by definition less than 50% coverage?

  16. #16 |  Nemo_N | 

    There is also the creepy possibility that the prison officials do honestly believe that images of women in swimsuits are akin to porn.

  17. #17 |  André | 

    #4 | Yizmo Gizmo | June 2nd, 2011 at 11:14 am
    I mean, seriously, no sex (or even exposure to females) for a year or more.
    Isn’t that cruel and most unusual?

    No heterosexual sex, you mean.

  18. #18 |  crazybob | 

    So why doesn’t the call of libertarian princess Rand Paul to jail and deport people who excercise their rights to assembly and speech get any time on this blog?

    http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2011/06/01/rand_paul_jail_tea_parties/index.html

  19. #19 |  Windy | 

    America is still stuck in the puritan mindset, until we get rid of that there will be no common sense in laws or attitudes about sex, drugs and rock and roll.

  20. #20 |  Zeb | 

    “There is also the creepy possibility that the prison officials do honestly believe that images of women in swimsuits are akin to porn.”

    I suspect that if you have been in prison for a while, and are not allowed access to actual porn, pictures of women in swimsuits probably are pretty akin to porn for practical purposes.

  21. #21 |  AL | 

    No pictures of sex or nudity? Damn, no illustrated Bibles then. I wish more and more prisoners had access to The Brick Testament, but lego porn is a no go in South Carolina.

  22. #22 |  Joe | 

    The Shawshank Redemption really needs to be required viewing for prison officials.

  23. #23 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    “KABC, the source of the story, didn’t quote anyone from the ACLU in its article, only a jail official, who spun it as a story about porn. That’s when it was picked up by Drudge, at which point it spread out over the web.”

    Well we can’t expect reporters to actually investigat now can we? And I am not at all suprised that intrepid reporter Matt Drudge would take that information at face value and run with it. All part of the culture war, I guess.

  24. #24 |  StrongStyle81 | 

    So South Carolina considers the Washington Post porn? I guess that would make Reason magazine the tijuana donkey show.

  25. #25 |  Alex | 

    18- by “no coverage” do you mean “linked to the post you are commenting on?” But either way, I wish the Pauls would take a more clear stance on civil liberties. Clearly they’re against large and expensive federal government programs that limit civil liberties. But a comment like this doesn’t seem to indicate that Rand actually values those liberties.

  26. #26 |  BSK | 

    Will they also ban Men’s Health, SI, ESPN the Magazine, and any other magazine that features men in anything less than suits?

  27. #27 |  Mattocracy | 

    I’ve often wondered if the ACLU sucks at public relations or if the conservative smear machine is really that good.

    I’m torn-I don’t want to give the ACLU smear people the benefit of acknowledging that they’re good at something, but I also wish the ACLU would fight back a little more. Of course, spending time defending themselves is time they aren’t helping people fight the man.

    The battle for hearts and minds is nasty.

  28. #28 |  Miko | 

    The correct libertarian position is of course to allow pornography in prisons during the interim period in which we dismantle the criminal justice system and eliminate the prisons. That said, like all libertarian positions, this is not going to happen in a voting booth or a courthouse, but by delegitimizing the state, creating alternate institutions, and developing means of making the enforcement of the statist law impossible. So, having a parallel organization like the ACLU that targets the tip of the iceberg of the state (allowing them to both work inside the system and receive support from non-libertarians) is useful.

  29. #29 |  albatross | 

    Mattocracy:

    I think it’s the power of the expected narrative. If I can tell you a story that fits very well with your starting assumptions and smears only people you don’t like, then you’re very likely to buy it even if it’s full of holes. So, depending on your audience, you can make shit up about the ACLU, tea partiers, gun owners, blacks, Jews, Southerners, etc., and at least your target audience will just swallow it.

    This is why it’s important to read/listen to/watch news from very different sources, coming from different assumptions about the audience and different ideologies. If you’re a libertarian, the narrative used for a story on Democracy Now won’t be sugar-coated for you in the same way a story in The Economist will be, for example.

  30. #30 |  Paul's Thing » Banned Book News Roundup & Review | 

    […] Not much else going on in banned book news this week.  Well, there’s this, a Los Angeles ABC station’s report titled “ACLU wants porn to be allowed for South Carolina inmates.”  I’m always suspicious when I see ACLU-baiting headlines like that, because the real story is almost always exactly the opposite.  Apparently libertarian blogger Radley Balko felt the same way.  His report … based on research, not ideological assumptions … is titled “The ACLU is not suing to put porn in jails.” […]

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