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Massachusetts’ Prison Ban on Sexually Explicit Material Upheld

A Massachusetts federal district court has held a legitimate penological interest exists for a Massachusetts Department of Corrections policy that bans sexually explicit publications.

Before the Court was a lawsuit brought by 11 prisoners, alleging violation of their First Amendment rights. The Court found that prison officials’ evidence showed that sexually explicit material contributes to the breakdown of security in prisons.

As an alternative, prisoners have access to and can receive non-sexually explicit publications. The Court held that prison officials may ban publications that are generally known to contain nude or semi-nude images. Some exemptions, however, must apply. For instance, nude depictions that are “medical, educations, or anthropological” in nature would not appeal to a “prurient interest” or excite their passions. Thus, such material must be individually reviewed.

The Court granted prison officials’ motion for summary judgment.

See: Moses v. Dennehy, 523 F.Supp. 2d 57; US Dist. Lexis 85359 (D. Mass. 2007).

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Related legal case

Moses v. Dennehy