Jail officials to consider educational viewing material following lawsuit


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A lawsuit stemming from a disagreement over explicit movies shown to inmates at the Iowa State Penitentiary has prompted local jail administrators to say such movies have no place in their facilities.

Administrators at the state prison, located in Fort Madison, reportedly received repeated complaints about the movies from correctional officer Kristine Sink, who subsequently sued the penitentiary. Both Sink and the prison acknowledge Sink was told not to turn off the movies.

Sink contends that the inmates were aroused by the content and that she was sexually harassed while administrators failed to protect her. Sink filed the lawsuit Nov. 30; she says her superiors retaliated against her as a result of the complaints. The state responded to the suit Jan. 14, denying her claims of retaliation, sexual harassment, and gender discrimination.

The movies, which were shown in a common area for inmates, included erotic film Delta of Venus, the horror film Deranged, and the Showtime series “Californication.”

Several correctional-facility administrators in Johnson County said they would not show inappropriate material to their inmates.

Dave Wagner, the jail administrator at the Johnson County Jail, said the facility does not currently show any movies to inmates. However, the jail is looking into adding educational programming to help combat such issues as substance abuse.

“[If we add movies], it’ll be something positive,” he said. “We want to help benefit inmates upon release.”

However, Wagner said, the jail would not show the types of violent movies that were shown at the state penitentiary.

Sam Black, the residential manager at the Coralville Hope House, a halfway home for inmates, said the facility does not show movies in the common area.

“We have TVs with cable, so they can watch whatever we subscribe to,” he said. “They only see what’s on TV.”

However, Black said, inmates are allowed to have DVD players in their rooms. While pornographic materials are not allowed, inmates are allowed to watch R-rated films.

One forensic psychology expert thinks the effect on inmates may vary. Richard Cooter, the program coordinator of the Forensic Psychology Program at George Washington University, said the effects of sexually explicit and violent material on inmates aren’t uniform.

“I don’t think you can generalize that way,” he said. “It’s inmate specific in a lot of ways.”

However, he believes certain material could be helpful for inmates.

“Psychologically, education movies are useful,” he said. “It depends on inmates, but it could help some people.”

Cooter was skeptical about the way the movies were described and thought one movie in particular sounded too violent to be shown.

“I feel certain there’s no prison in the world that would show that movie,” he said, referring to Deranged, which includes a scene in which a woman is raped and skinned.

As for the effect of such material on dangerous inmates?

“You don’t need to be a psychologist to answer that,” Cooter said.

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