NJ Prison Officials to Allow Alexander Book to Inmates
Jan 10 2018 by Desiree Burns
New Jersey corrections officials, challenged by a civil rights group, announced Monday that a bestselling book on mass incarceration and racial discrimination that had been banned at two state prisons would now be available to inmates at all state correctional facilities.
"Worst case scenario, it's an attempt by New Jersey Department of Corrections to keep its black and brown prisoners uninformed about the history of race and mass incarceration that they are living every single day", Borden toldNewsweek.
Alongside of "The New Jim Crow" on the list of banned books was "My Infamous Life: The Autobiography of Mobb Deep's Prodigy", "The Last Narco: Inside the Hunt for El Chapo, the World's Most Wanted Drug Lord", and other crime novels including "In the Minds of Murderers" and "The World's Most Evil Psychopaths".
The ACLU requested that the prisons remove "The New Jim Crow" from their ban lists by January 24 to be followed by a more complete review of the rest of the content on the lists.
Two New Jersey prisons have banned a popular book on racial injustice and mass incarceration, and the ACLU is calling the move "unconstitutional censorship".
"The ratios and percentages of mass incarceration play out in terms of human lives", said Amol Sinha, the ACLU-NJ's executive director. Black inmates outnumber white inmates five to one. "Keeping a book that examines a national tragedy out of the hands of the people mired within it adds insult to injury".
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There is an ongoing national debate over book banning in prisons, with some inmate advocates and even the American Library Association arguing that excessive censorship wrongly infringes on the prisoner's intellectual freedom.
"In addressing prisoners" First Amendment rights, the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly clarified that "prison walls do not form a barrier separating prison inmates from the protections of the Constitution, '" the letter states.
The ban on "The New Jim Crow" violates the First Amendment and the Department of Corrections' own regulations at a time when New Jersey is grappling with racial disparities in its jails and prisons and taking steps toward reform, the civil rights group said.
Severaloutletsreported Monday on the open records request, and on the ACLU's response: that the prisons were illegally blocking the book based on its content, rather than any danger or hinderance it posed to the facilities' operation.
As New Jersey prepares to inaugurate both a new governor, Phil Murphy (D), and its first African American lieutenant governor, Sheila Oliver, these are the issues they promised to address.