New Mexico Prisons Ban Magic: The Gathering

Josh Nelson • November 21, 2023

Magic: The Gathering is a game that many people from all walks of life play. This game is important to famous musicians, professional athletes, and so many other demographics that it's hard to keep track. But Magic is more than just a game to some. It is a form of recreation, a pastime, and a means of rehabilitation in prison systems across the United States. Incarcerated players use Magic to hone their math, critical thinking, and reading comprehension while in the system. However, this may all come to a screeching halt; at least in one state, where Magic is currently being banned from all its state prisons.

According to redditor u/Lyzen2910, whose father is currently an inmate at Lea Hobbs County Correctional in New Mexico, Magic is being eliminated in prisons across the state:

New Mexico Deputy Director of Corrections Department, Timothy Hatch, is Eliminating MTG within the Prison system for inmates in New Mexico. Recently inmates have been told that they have 30 days to send all their MTG cards home and will no longer be allowed to play while incarcerated. This is a big hit to individuals who are incarcerated. We all know the benefits of playing MTG and how it can keep people from more unhealthy behaviors, build our community, and increase our ability to communicate with others.

Please contact the Deputy Director at (505) 827-8519 and let him know this will have a negative impact on inmates.

Edit: I found out this information from my father who is incarcerated at Lea Hobbs County Correctional Facility.

Edit2: I am glad this is getting some attention. Thank you all! I have not been able to find why they did this nor has my father. When he asked they told him to just get it done.

Edit3: Additional information! My father has reached out and asked that anyone who is going to reach out do so in the next 10 days. If nothing changes all the inmates will have to send their cards and accessories back home. Some of these people have lots of money invested and it would be a shame to lose it all. Here are some additional numbers to call: 505-827-8710 or 505-827-8548. When you call say this is concerning Deputy Secretary Hatch and Deputy Warden of Operations Joe Lytle regarding inmates playing MTG. Please let your voice be heard


New Mexico Deputy Director of Corrections Department is Eliminating MTG within the Prison system
byu/Lyzen2910 inmagicTCG


We reached out to the office of Deputy Director Timothy Hatch for comment. When we did, the office confirmed that this was the case. They also confirmed a reason for the change: inmates have been using Magic: The Gathering cards as a form of "alternative currency". Furthermore, we also know that this is happening in at least one other New Mexico county. In Los Alamos County, according to the office, players cannot have Magic: The Gathering cards. It is unclear at this time whether they can play the game with placeholders or proxies there, either.

Placeholders for Magic: The Gathering cards made in a Texas prison during one inmate's stay in 2021. Credit u/HeidenOvTheNord

According to the Deputy Director's office, they are only banning the cards from New Mexico prisons. However, u/Lyzen2910 claims that the New Mexico correctional system is banning Magic outright. While the discrepancy between the two statements seems minor, they have major ramifications for incarcerated players. If u/Lyzen2910's statement is fully accurate, it means that soon, players will not be able to play Magic at all.

We spoke with the Redditor who initially posted the above information. We can note a few alternatives pitched to the office of the Deputy Director. For context, the system is giving inmates a chance to send their cards home. As of writing, the players have just until November 30th to send their cards out or risk confiscation. The suggestions included giving players in the system permission to play the game using placeholder cards.

We are still looking into this news at this time, and we will update you as developments continue.

Josh Nelson wears many hats. They are a music journalist when not writing gaming news. Beyond this, they're a scholar of the Sweeney Todd urban legend, a fan of monster-taming RPGs, and a filthy Aristocrats player. Josh has been playing Magic since 2001 and attributes their tenure to nostalgia, effort, and "aesthetic".