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Federal Court Upholds Kansas Prison Regulation Banning Publications Depicting Bare Buttocks

A Kansas federal district court has held that prison officials may censor publications that depict bare buttocks. The ruling came in a civil rights action that alleged the prison policy that banned publications with such depictions violated the First Amendment.

The suit was filed by Lansing Correctional Facility prisoners Michael Lee Strope and Alan W. Kingsley. Before the Court was the parties’ cross-motion for summary judgment.

The Court accepted the legitimate penological interest asserted by Kansas Department of Corrections Secretary, Roger Werholtz, as being valid. Werholtz explained the ban in terms of the risks to homosexual prisoners and the need to keep the regulation gender-neutral, as well as in terms of managing paraphernalia and sexual deviance associated with sex offenders. He further stated that nudity in any form disrupts overall prison security, is used to sexually harass staff members, and leads to open masturbation.

Although the Court found the pictures at issue were “more accurately characterized as sexy” because they depicted women in various types of underwear, the regulation’s purpose is to ban material whose purpose is sexual arousal or gratification and the only plausible purpose for the censored images is sexual pleasure.

The Court granted prison officials summary judgment and upheld the regulation.

See: Strope v. Collins, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 46364.

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Related legal case

Strope v. Collins