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Murderer Sues Over Prison Porn Ban; Wants 'Art Book' Back

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By William Peacock, Esq. on October 22, 2014 12:52 PM

Dwight Pink Jr., a convicted murderer serving a 56-year sentence in Connecticut, is a man with taste. While others have sought to look at pornography in prison, and sued over their Playboys, he wants something more classy: "The Atlas of Foreshortening," a book that uses nude models to show how to draw human bodies.

It's not porn -- it's an instructional book on art. And yet, it was ensnared in the prison's porn ban (in place since 2012) and confiscated.

Pink is now suing for the right to his book, $25,000 in damages, and attorneys' fees, reports The Associated Press.

Pink's Surprising Choices

You might think "The Atlas of Foreshortening" is an interesting choice. We certainly do. It might have something to do with the nude photos in the book, which should inspire many late night sketches.

The Washington Post lists a few other books that Pink sought and was denied, each of which led to its own filed claim: "Gentle Birth Choices," which covers alternative childbirth practices (and, per Amazon, includes a 45-minute DVD of six live gentle births), and "Shameless Art," which shamelessly features artistic works of pinup girls and other nude women.

Ban Previously Upheld

The Post notes that another prisoner challenged the ban in 2012 over his porn magazines. That court upheld the ban, holding, "Although prisoners do not forfeit all of their constitutional rights upon incarceration, the fact of incarceration and the needs of the prison system impose limitations on prisoners' constitutional rights, even those derived from the First Amendment."

But This Is Different

Immediately upon hearing about Pink's predicament, I recalled a case from just last year involving trashy vampire werewolf erotic fiction in a California prison. In that case, a California appeals court held that the inmate had a right to read "The Silver Crown," based in part in a state law that gives prisoners the right to read, and also because the book wasn't clearly obscene because it had some (arguably, very little) literary value.

Of course, a California state court can't tell Connecticut courts how to rule. But the two cases do have some interesting parallels: The prison porn ban in Connecticut, for instance, has an exception for "materials which, taken as a whole, are literary, artistic, educational or scientific in nature."

And an art book "taken as a whole" certainly is, by definition, "artistic ... in nature." Arguably, the ban shouldn't apply, even if the prison doesn't think Pink is planning on staying up late at night in his prison cell drawing portraits.

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