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Martin Wishnatsky, Lynchburg, Va., Published July 17 2012

Former warden was soft on porn

While taking a break in my bar exam studies, I noticed The Forum story about Tim Schuetzle, former warden of the North Dakota State Penitentiary (NDSP): “Former ND prison warden banned from property,” July 7.

When I was at the state farm in 1992, I complained to Warden Schuetzle about the open display of pornography on inmate lockers and the prison library’s subscription to Playboy. “Playboy is not pornography,” he told me.

By contrast, Warden Schuetzle confiscated a photo of an aborted baby that I posted on my locker. The NDSP mail room even removed pictures of children in the womb, alive and floating in amniotic fluid, from my incoming mail as contraband. The prison allowed inmates to possess pornography, but photos of the carnage that results from the fornication culture were banned.

Since 1996 the Ensign Amendment has prohibited pornography from entering federal prisons. See 28 U.S.C. § 530C(b)(6), “[N]o funds may be used to distribute or make available to a prisoner any commercially published information or material that is sexually explicit or features nudity.” The federal ban, which includes Playboy and Penthouse, is constitutional: Amatel v. Reno, 156 F.3d 192 (D.C. Cir. 1998).

In 2003, I drafted a bill, modeled on federal law, to ban pornography in the state pen. A friend of mine asked Majority Leader Bob Stenehjem to introduce the bill. After Schuetzle sent Stenehjem a long memo opposing the ban, the majority leader declined to introduce the bill. I recommend that the state Legislature enact such a ban when it meets next year.

From my personal experience, Schuetzle was soft on pornography from the first days of his tenure as warden.


Wishnatsky is a former Fargo resident.