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Wisconsin Appeals Court Orders Photos Delivered to Prisoner

On July 22, 2010, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, District IV, held that three prison employees – sued over their involvement in withholding pictures deemed pornographic by Department of Corrections policy – were entitled to qualified immunity. The court also held that four of the 15 contested photos were not pornographic as defined by the policy.

Johnny Lacy Jr., a prisoner at the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility (WSPF), purchased photographs from a commercial vendor on September 9, 2005. On April 5, 2006, WSPF personnel refused to deliver a total of 15 photos to Lacy, contending they were pornographic under the DOC’s pornography ban set forth in Wisconsin Administrative Code 30904(4).

Additionally, in September 2006, the DOC implemented a policy prohibiting possession of any commercially produced photographs. Lacy subsequently filed suit in small claims court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that the DOC’s ban on commercially produced photographs, the limitation on the number of photographs a prisoner can possess to 50, and non-delivery of 15 photographs violated his civil rights and his rights under the First Amendment. Prison officials moved for summary judgment, which the court granted, and Lacy appealed.

The court of appeals affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded with directions. First, the court held that the three prison employees named in Lacy’s suit were entitled to qualified immunity. Moreover, the court held that the policy banning commercially produced photographs was constitutional and that the limit of 50 personal photographs was reasonably related to legitimate penological interest. However, Lacy did prevail on one issue: the court held that four of the 15 pictures withheld from Lacy were not pornographic pursuant to the DOC’s definition of pornography [see: Wis. Admin. Code §§ DOC 309.02 (16)(b) and (14)], and ordered those pictures delivered to Lacy. See: Lacy v. Huibregtse, 329 Wis.2d 268 (Wis.App., 2010), (unpublished) 2010 WL 2852709.

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Related legal case

Lacy v. Huibregtse