Does Banning Porn from Prisons Violate the U.S. Constitution?

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An inmate has sued the state of Michigan, arguing that his prison’s ban on porn constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment.”

In a five-page, handwritten lawsuit, Kyle Richards, 21, claims that the Macomb County Jail is breaching his civil rights by refusing access to erotic material. “Such living conditions have been used as a method of ‘psychological warfare’ against prisoners, in order to both destroy the morale of inmates and break the spirit of individuals,” he writes in the lawsuit, adding that he must cope with “sensory deprivation” and “a poor standard of living.” He also claims to suffer from “chronic masturbation syndrome and severe sexual discomfort,” and says that pornography is an essential part of his treatment.

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The Michigan Department of Corrections does allow inmates to keep pornography (with the exception of materials that depict simulated rape, sadomasochism and bestiality). But that doesn’t mean Richards has a strong chance of winning his case. “Prisons have a lot of leeway to regulate the material that comes in and out,” Michigan ACLU Executive Director Kary Moss told the Detroit News. Unfortunately for Richards, county rules ban smut at his particular jail. It doesn’t help him that a judge has dismissed three of his previous complaints as “frivolous.”

Police charged Richards with bank robbery in January after they followed a trail of loose bills and footprints through the snow from the crime scene to his apartment north of Detroit. He pleaded guilty. (via the Detroit News)

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William Lee Adams is a writer-reporter at TIME’s London bureau. Find him on Twitter at @willyleeadams. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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