Inmate Appeal Of Prison Porn Policy Returned To Lower Court For Correction

Apr 11, 2018

Inmate Charles Sisney sued the SD State Penitentiary and Department of Corrections for its policy on pornography.
Credit SD Department of Corrections

In 2014 the warden at the South Dakota State Penitentiary enacted a more stringent policy restricting access to obscene materials.

Inmate Charles Sisney sued in U.S. Federal District Court in Sioux Falls, leaving that court to balance an inmate's civil rights against the need to maintain a safe and orderly institution.

Under the newest policy, not only pictures are banned, but also prose. And images that can be banned include nudity in any context, including art or modern photography.

The federal court granted summary judgment to Sisney, saying that the latest policy was on its face unconstitutional. But the court also considered whether specific materials confiscated from Sisney were obscene and evaluated them using an earlier version of the prison's policy.

The state appealed the summary judgment to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. The inmate cross-appealed the court's decision that his Pretty Face comic books could constitutionally be confiscated.

A three-judge panel heard oral arguments in St. Paul on Oct. 19, and issued its opinion at the end of March.

SDPB's Victoria Wicks explores this case.