Judge tosses Iowa inmates' lawsuit over porn ban

Judge Robert Pratt dismissed the suit because the inmates did not file amended complaints as requested last month


By Trish Mehaffey
The Gazette

DES MOINES, Iowa — A federal judge Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit filed by 58 inmates who attempted to sue the state of Iowa over the recent ban on pornography in prisons, claiming it violated their constitutional rights.

U.S. District Senior Judge Robert Pratt dismissed the suit without prejudice — meaning they could refile — because the inmates did not file amended complaints as requested by the judge last month.

Pratt told Fort Dodge Correctional Facility inmates last month they couldn’t file a class-action lawsuit and each would be required to file a separate complaint for the case to move forward. The judge also said inmates would have to pay a filing fee or file financial paperwork to proceed as indigent person.

Pratt said he needed the amended complaints and financial information by Nov. 30, but they were not filed. The case is dismissed for failure to comply with the court’s order, according to Pratt’s order Tuesday.

The inmates were upset about the new law, which went in effect Nov. 14 at all nine state prisons and shut down the designated “pornography reading rooms.” The men filed the suit in October.

The inmates’ lawsuit, which was confusing and difficult to understand, claims the legislation was passed under the guise of “morality” and was brought by a “government contrived of Nazis or tyrants.”

The lead plaintiff of the lawsuit, 70-year-old Allen Curtis Miles, was convicted of first-degree murder in Polk County District Court for the fatal stabbing of Cheryl Kleinschrodt in March 1982.

The reading rooms, which were supervised by prison staff, allowed prisoners who were not convicted of sexual or sexual-related offenses to look at sexually explicit materials, according to the Iowa Department of Corrections. Inmates would receive these materials in the mail but officials would store them until an inmate requested to view them and be taken to a reading room. Once the inmate was done, the materials would go back to storage.

The inmates who received less explicit materials, like nude photos or “Playboy” magazines, would be allowed to keep those in their cells, Iowa Department of Corrections spokesman Cord Overton said last month.

But the new law also bans inmates from having those in their cells.

The reading rooms were set up in response to a federal court ruling in the 1980s that found Iowa’s prison rules dealing with sexually explicit materials were unconstitutional.

Notice of the ban went out to inmates in July so they had time to cancel subscriptions or let family and friends know that nude and sexually explicit material would not be allowed on or after Nov. 14, Overton said last month.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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