By William Petroski, Des Moines Register
DES MOINES, Iowa – Fifty-eight Iowa inmates are suing state officials in federal court, seeking $25,000 each in damages and claiming they have been denied a constitutional right to pornography in the state's prison system.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Des Moines, seeks to overturn a new state law that has shut down designated "pornography reading rooms" in Iowa's prisons. The law also prohibits inmates from having nude photos in their cells. The ban includes Playboy magazine, which has long been allowed in the state's nine prisons.
The plaintiffs – who are all inmates at the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility – are led by Allen C. Miles, 70, who is serving a life sentence for the stabbing death of Cheryl Kleinschrodt on March 3, 1982, in Des Moines. The suit claims the law was enacted under the guise of "morality" and blames "religious tyrants" who have no regard for the U.S. Constitution or Declaration of Independence.
The lawsuit also contends that if female correctional officers employed in Iowa's prisons for men can't handle an environment that includes photographic matter featuring female nudity and related matters, "they should find employment elsewhere."
The new law specifically says funds appropriated to the Iowa Department of Corrections shall not be used to distribute or make available any commercially published information or material to an inmate that is sexually explicit or features nudity.
The law reverses a policy in place for three decades since the late Chief U.S. District Judge Harold Vietor upheld findings in 1988 that the state's prison rules on pornography were unconstitutionally vague and overbroad.
Michael Savala, the Iowa prison system's general counsel, told state lawmakers during the session the legislation mirrors a policy currently used by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Iowa prison officials believe the changes will withstand a court challenge from inmates, he said.
"The department really feels that inmates having access to that kind of material does not lend itself to pro-social thinking and behavior and as far as our responsibilities to change the mindset of the offender as they transition back into the community," Savala said.
Read the full story on the USA Today website.