Would Porn in Prison Cause Violence? Studies Don’t Prove It

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A 21-year-old inmate is suing Michigan for depriving him of porn while locked up. This case follows a suit last month by the American Civil Liberties Union to force a South Carolina prison to loosen its broad restrictions on reading materials, which Salon.com says was sensationalized as a push for porn in prison, prompting officials to explain that smut was a danger to inmates because it would cause aggression and violence.

Is there really evidence that it would? The short answer is: No, there isn’t solid proof. The longer answer is, as Joseph Slade, the author of “Pornography and Sexual Representation: A Reference Guide,” says, “No responsible academic researcher claims that evidence supports pornography’s causing hostility or violence, principally because of the number of variables involved in constructing studies, the divergent definitions of pornography, and the sometimes unconscious biases of those who look for effects,” he said. That’s why in 2007, Sweden’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of allowing porn in prison: Officials couldn’t prove that it would “jeopardize the safety of the institution.”

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