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IN DOC Ban on Typewriters Upheld

Prisoners do not have a right to possess typewriters and word processors; the right of court access is satisfied by providing basic materials, such as pens and paper, for the preparation of legal materials. The fact that prisoners were permitted to possess these devices for 20 years did not give rise to a "state created right" the state could not take away. The policy permitted prisoners in one housing area to keep their existing typewriters, though not to replace them, but this distinction was not based on any suspect class, so there is no equal protection claim. There was no First Amendment violation either; while publishers may not accept handwritten manuscripts, the plaintiffs could send their handwritten manuscripts to family, friends, etc., for transcription. In any case no plaintiff showed any interference with publication of a literary work resulting from the prison's policy.

Prison officials showed legitimate reasons for the policy: reducing the amount of property to make searches easier and reduce fire hazards, eliminating components that could be fashioned into weapons, etc. As usual, the prisoners' argument that typewriters in fact have not caused problems and other things have similar components is brushed off; prison officials don't have to wait for actual security breaches. See: Roberts v. Cohn, 63 F.Supp.2d 921 (N.D.Ind. 1999).

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Related legal case

Roberts v. Cohn