8th Circuit Court of Appeals Reverses Inmate’s Challenge to Penitentiary Pornography Policy

PIERRE, S.D. –  Attorney General Marty Jackley announced today that the United States Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit reversed Charles Sisney’s challenge to the South Dakota State Penitentiary’s pornography policy.  Sisney is serving a life sentence for killing his girlfriend after she asked him to move out of the house.  He then stuffed her body into a Rubbermaid storage container.

“Charles Sisney gave up many freedoms when he murdered his girlfriend. The orderly and safe operation of the penitentiary is essential, including keeping pornographic materials away from sex offenders,” said Jackley.

The policy prohibits inmates from possessing publications that contain depictions of nudity or sexually explicit conduct.  Sisney challenged the policy after he was refused access to a Japanese manga comic depicting nude schoolgirls and a copy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice known as “the wild and wanton edition” for scenes of explicit sexuality added to the classic work by another writer.  Sisney was also refused access to a vintage Coppertone ad depicting the exposure of a young girl’s buttocks by a dog pulling down her swimming trunks and books containing works of Renaissance art featuring nudity.

In a prior challenge to the penitentiary’s pornography policy, the court observed that “[i]nmate possession of pornography had been an ever-increasing problem.  For example, inmates sold, rented or traded pornographic magazines in violation of other DOC policies.  Disputes about the use or return of such magazines resulted in threats against inmates.  Certain groups of inmates who were prohibited from possessing pornographic materials (i.e. sex offenders) could access the materials from those who were not prohibited from possessing it.”

Further proceedings in the case will determine if specific materials, such as a sexually explicit Game of Thrones knockoff entitled Thrones of Desire or reproductions of famous artworks, are subject to the policy.

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