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Porn Ban in Michigan Jail Unconstitutional, Inmate Sues Gov.

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on July 08, 2011 10:43 AM

Upset over his lack of erotic material, Kyle Richards, 21, is suing the state of Michigan on the grounds that a local prison porn ban constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the 8th Amendment.

Proceeding in pro per (or writing his own pleading to the court without an attorney), he claims that Macomb County Jail's porn ban is a "method of 'psychological warfare' against prisoners" that aims to break their spirits via sensory deprivation.

It's also apparently a poor standard of living.

It's important to first note that the state of Michigan has no prison porn ban on the books, and, according to Time, allows inmates to keep pornographic material. Richards should actually be suing the county, which owns and runs his facility.

Ignoring the fact that he has sued the wrong entity, is Kyle Richards correct in asserting that the 8th Amendment applies to a prison porn ban?

Eh, not really.

Aside from mandating access to religious and legal materials, the Supreme Court has given prisons a lot of leeway in regulating inmate access to reading materials, so long as there is rational basis that supports some government interest.

It's not hard to imagine why prison officials would not want to encourage sexual behavior behind bars.

Even though his 8th Amendment argument is flawed, Kyle Richards still might be able to win his case.

He claims that he suffers from "chronic masturbation syndrome," reports Time, and that access to pornography is necessary for treatment. If true, the county may have to make an exception to its prison porn ban as a reasonable accommodation.

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