crimesider

Hard Times: No Porn for Prisoners

(AP / CBS)
HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS/ AP) Those long months and years of hard time behind bars will remain even longer for Pennsylvania's prisoners this week, thanks to a new Supreme Court ruling.

No Porn. That is what the state's highest justices said Monday to inmate Shannon R. Brittain, a convicted sex offender, who sought to overturn the state prison system's pornography ban in prison.

The court sided unanimously with the Department of Corrections, which argued for the smut ban. They reversed a lower court ruling that had allowed Brittain's case to continue.

"Brittain's submission of self-serving non-expert averments of fellow prisoners, which merely assert that they do not believe their rehabilitation and treatment are hindered by viewing pornography, were insufficient," wrote Justice Max Baer.

Baer said it is conceivable that some other inmate might be able to make a compelling argument against the prohibition on obscene materials, but "the burden of doing so is high" and Brittain did not meet it.

The Pa. Corrections Department in November 2005 announced a ban on "materials in which the purpose is sexual arousal" as well as images of human nudity. The policy was later amended to allow a case-by-case review of items that may have literary or educational value.

The Corrections Department has offered statistical evidence that assaults and sexual misconduct cases declined after the porn ban was imposed, Justice Baer said.

Brittain, convicted of rape in Luzerne County, filed a lawsuit in Commonwealth Court two years ago in which he argued his constitutional rights had been violated. To back up his claim, he offered the statements of six other inmates that nudity did not affect their rehabilitation or treatment, cause them to sexually harass anyone or create a hostile environment for prison workers.

Commonwealth Court declined the prison system's attempt to throw out the lawsuit, but the state appealed and won the reversal issued by the high court on Monday. Brittain, who is serving as his own lawyer in the case, is currently in the Mahanoy State Prison and could not immediately be reached for comment.

State prison system spokeswoman Sue McNaughton hailed the high court's ruling for aiding "corrections professionals' ability to set and to change policies that affect the prison system."
  • Ryan Smith

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