Magic: the Gathering’s history in terms of acceptance has been a checkered one. In the past, many were concerned that MTG was connected with satanic practices due to overlying themes in the artwork. This belief also held true for Dungeons and Dragons. While MTG has come a long way from that belief, there are some who still believe the product is not suited for some to engage with. It turns out that any literacy relating to the two franchises, and other fantasy role-playing games, have been banned from Wisconsin prisons. Why? Because these games have the potential to promote gang activity.
MTG Prison Bannings?
Policy for what is considered appropriate readable material has been revealed for Wisconsin prisons, and Magic: the Gathering now holds a bannable offense. As quoted from a Wisconsin Public Radio article outlining the event:
“A prison policy specifically bans any materials related to fantasy role play games, like Magic the Gathering or Dungeons and Dragons. That’s led to bans on books like “Magic The Gathering Official Encyclopedia.” Another volume called the “The Art of Magic: The Gathering” was banned because it was listed as a security threat, according to the list obtained by WPR.”
Many may not be able to link a fantasy role playing game to a potential security threat. According to the aforementioned article, the behavior exhibited during a co-operative roleplaying game can mimic and encourage gang behavior:
“”Historically, fantasy role playing games have been denied as they can create a rank structure amongst those who play, which is prohibited,” Beard, the DOC spokesman, wrote in an email.”
The event which led to this ban involves a Wisconsin inmate named Kevin Singer, who “sued the Waupun Correctional Institution after a security supervisor said he got an anonymous letter from an inmate claiming Singer and other were forming a D&D “gang.”” This accusation ended up in court after Correctional Institution employees confiscated multiple documents related to Dungeons and Dragons, including a campaign book that Singer wrote himself. Things only kept escalating from there:
“Singer argued prison officials had violated his free speech, equal protection and due process rights, but the prison’s security supervisor submitted an affidavit saying co-operative games like D&D mimic the structure of a gang. That prison official compared a D&D “dungeon master,” someone gives instructions to other players, to the leader of a gang. He also claimed fantastical games like D&D could “foster an inmate’s obsession with escaping from the real life, correctional environment” and thereby create a security threat, court records show.”
MTG Players Worry About True Intent
When discussing this topic on Reddit, MTG players are concerned that, according to this article, the goal of these Wisconsin rules regarding readable material is to prevent inmates from interacting with each other in any way at all:
“Based on the wording it actually looks more like they don’t want inmates forming and connections or cooperating at all. Which is way more unjust. This just makes criminals reliant on old affiliations rather than forming new, and productive relationships.”
“This is so crazy. Where I live, attempting to escape prison isn’t even a crime, because the desire for freedom is seen as inherent to human nature. To not even allow inmates their fantasy games because they might “want to escape their situation” seems terribly inhumane to me.”
While escapism is also a concern, according to the report, there is no proof that these restrictions are trying to prevent anything beyond the potential encouragement of gang behavior. Ultimately, these may have just arisen because of the corner case discussed. Players also point out the positive effects that role playing games could have for prison mates:
“I feel like something such as D&D should be encouraged, gives the guys something to look forward to – and in essence keeps them out of trouble. Can you imagine having a bunch of dudes sitting around some dude with a book story telling instead of being stabbed to death in the prison yard? Sounds like a good time to me”
MTG Prison Popularity
Notably, this is far from the first time that a Magic: the Gathering story has made itself known from prison. Not too long ago, one player with a history in prison showcased decks that he recreated himself from memory for prison mates to enjoy. Featured in this Reddit thread, OP mentions that, when recreating the decks, they “just had to remember. It isn’t that hard, especially if you have played the deck a lot. If you can remember 4 key cards from a deck, then you just need to sit and think for minute about what other cards were interacting with those cards from within that deck.”
This seemed like a genuinely heartwarming event that had a lot of Redditors applauding the efforts of the player who created these decks. As such, this is a good example of showing the other half of the coin in regards to the positive effects role playing games like Magic: the Gathering can have for people in prison. Here’s to hoping that the ‘gang-like’ nature of role playing games truly will not cause any damage, besides, comedically, the creator of these decks having to explain that the Cauldron Familiar and Witch’s Oven combo is, in fact, not a cheat.
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