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Inmate loses First Amendment case
By The Oregonian
Published: 01/14/2004

A convicted Oregon sex offender might be able to subscribe to the Green Lantern comic book, but he has no federal constitutional right to buy magazines containing sexually explicit materials and fantasy role-playing games, a federal appeals panel ruled Tuesday. But the panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals left unresolved the question of whether Afshin Bahrampour has a right to receive Muscle Elegance and White Dwarf magazines under the Oregon Constitution, which provides greater free-speech protections than its federal counterpart.
Bahrampour, 36, was convicted in 1998 of sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl in 1995 when he briefly worked as an assistant coach at a Beaverton gymnastics academy. He was sentenced to eight years and three months in prison.
While an inmate at Snake River Correctional Institution, Bahrampour subscribed to the Green Lantern comic books and purchased copies of White Dwarf and Muscle Elegance.
Corrections officials initially blocked his subscription to Green Lantern because of a rule against materials sent by bulk mail. But that rule was later held unconstitutional, and Bahrampour received the comic book.
Prison officials rejected issues of Muscle Elegance because of sexual content and White Dwarf because of role-playing.
Magazines with sexual conduct, according to a corrections expert, "may result in prohibited sexual activity or unwanted sexual behavior, including rape."
Role-playing games are prohibited, prison officials said, "to prevent inmates from placing themselves in fantasy roles that reduce accountability and substitute raw power for legitimate authority," according to the 9th Circuit ruling.
Bahrampour sued in 2001, claiming that the restrictions violate his federal and state constitutional free-speech rights. But a federal magistrate dismissed his suit.
On appeal, Bahrampour argued that White Dwarf contains no role-playing materials and Muscle Elegance had no sexual content.
The 9th Circuit rejected each contention.
The court noted that prisoners do not lose all constitutional rights while incarcerated, but they must be balanced against legitimate prison management interests of corrections officials.
The ban on sexually explicit and role-playing materials, although restricting Bahrampour's First Amendment rights, was reasonable, the court ruled.
Still, the court left the door slightly ajar. It said the district court did not explain why it rejected Bahrampour's claim that he had a right to the Muscle Elegance and White Dwarf under the Oregon Constitution, which prohibits government restraint of free speech to a greater extent than the First Amendment does.


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