Are a prison inmates First Amendment rights being violated if he cannot have a jigsaw puzzle?
A prison inmate alleges his First Amendment rights are being violated because he cannot have access to jigsaw puzzles.
Alan Berkun, who is serving six years for stock fraud, said he was "unconstitutionally barred from ordering a jigsaw puzzle from Amazon.com to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn," according to court documents obtained by ABC News.
The inmate, who was convicted of conspiracy to commit securities, mail and wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering, and has a projected release date of May 21, 2015, has petitioned the courts for the puzzles.
"I should be able to order puzzles from Amazon.com - and I think every prisoner should be allowed this right," Berkun said via speakerphone, according to the New York Post. "I can order a book from Amazon.com."
The prison system declined to comment on the case.
"This is a pending case," Robert Nardoza, a spokesman U.S. Attorney Eastern District of New York, told ABC News. "We can't comment at this time. There is no trial date at this time."
Based on court filings, Berkun's battle to purchase a puzzle began last year. In an inmate request from June 2011, Berkun pleaded his case.
"A puzzle does not present any safety or security issues," he wrote, "and it will be delivered to the mailroom from the publisher similar to a book or magazine."
"A puzzle presents no additional staffing security for the mailroom," he added, saying that he would be willing to donate the puzzle upon completion.
However, the request for the puzzle was denied by Metropolitan Detention Center, which stated, "Jigsaw puzzles are not approved as inmate personal property … but can be provided by the recreation department at the prison."
Now, the dispute may head to trial.
According to the New York Post, Judge John Gleeson asked the penitentiary, "What is the penological interest in this prohibition of jigsaw puzzles coming into this facility?"
The Post reported that the Justice Department responded: "A jigsaw puzzle stored and assembled in Berkun's cell could cause unnecessary clutter, pose a fire hazard, and/or limit Berkun's living area."
ABC News unsuccessfully tried to reach Berkun through the Metropolitan Detention Center and the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Miami, where he is currently being held, according to a search of inmates on the website for the Bureau of Prisons.
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