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Prisoner Denied Pornography in a Wisconsin Prison

A Wisconsin appellate court held that a prisoner’s lawsuit against guards for denying him pornography was properly dismissed.

The Court of Appeals, District IV, affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by Green Bay Correctional Institution prisoner Charles Downing on January 3, 2013. The lawsuit alleged that guards wrongfully confiscated and denied him reading materials deemed to be pornographic.

Downing first filed a prisoner grievance through the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (WDOC) grievance procedure. He alleged that guards, contrary to prison rules, disapproved his request to order copies of sexually explicit written publications, confiscated books previously approved, and deemed eight titles that Downing wished to order as prohibited.

After his grievance was denied, Downing filed a lawsuit in the Dane County Circuit Court seeking declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and damages under state and federal law. The court dismissed the lawsuit.

On appeal, Downing argued, among other things, that guards violated his constitutional due process rights, that he had a private cause of action to sue for damages under state law according to an earlier class action settlement, and that he could seek injunctive relief under state law. The court affirmed the circuit court’s dismissal.

It held that due process rights do not cover issues arising through the WDOC grievance procedure, according to state established law; that the settlement did not give Downing the right to sue; and though Downing may have been entitled to injunctive relief, he failed to meet the requirement of exhausting administrative remedies. See: Downing v. Raemisch, 2013 WI App 30 (Wi. Ct. App. 2013).

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Related legal case

Downing v. Raemisch