Inmate Sues Prison System For Adult Magazines

Jeff Berg
ST. PAUL, Minn. — A Minnesota inmate sued the Department of Corrections this week, claiming that denying inmates the ability to read sexually explicit magazines violates their First Amendment right.

Gregory A. Welch, 31, alleges in his handwritten lawsuit that the Minnesota Department of Corrections, which has always restricted access to material depicting sex acts, should not deny a majority of prisoners the material just because a few have poor reactions to it.

“Just because publications of sexually explicit material may have a negative impact on some inmates in Minnesota prisons does not make it fair for the Minnesota Department of Corrections to ban publications of sexually explicit material from all inmates in Minnesota prisons,” said Welch.

“It is not a fact that publications of sexually explicit material have a negative impact on all inmates in Minnesota prisons,” Welch said. “It is merely an assumption.”

Welch is currently serving a more than 12-year sentence for criminal sexual conduct after he attacked a woman pushing a baby stroller in a public park.

Access to adult material in prisons is still a highly debated subject, but a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court ruling declared that prisons can restrict constitutional rights that an inmate might have outside of incarceration if it “is reasonably related to legitimate penological concerns.”

“The pendulum has swung in favor of those who would broadly define pornography,” Minnesota ACLU director Charles Samuelson told the Pioneer Press. “Right now, the wardens can get away with doing whatever they want in the name of good discipline.”

Currently, the Minnesota Department of Corrections restricts inmates’ access to material depicting sexual intercourse, nudity and “specific biological descriptions of body parts.”

The case is Welch vs. Minnesota Department of Corrections, No. 04.4944.