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A prison advocacy group is suing the Texas prison system over prisoners' rights to order two books on prison conditions and the American criminal justice system.

Texas officials have blocked prisoner access to two books: Women Behind Bars: The Crisis of Women in the U.S. Prison System, by journalist Silja J.A. Talvi and Perpetual Prisoner Machine: How America Profits from Crime by Joel Dyer. Prison Legal News, the distributor of the books, filed a federal lawsuit against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice last week, arguing that the state has denied prisoners their constitutional rights.

But the state says it isn't banning the books because they're critical of the system - officials claim they blocked the books because they're too graphic. In fact, descriptions of sexual assault in the two books are critical to tell the story of a prisoner's life and to address prison conditions. Neither are remotely gratuitous.

Send a letter below to Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice Director Brad Livingston, urging him to reverse the ban.

Letter to
Mr. Brad Livingston
I was dismayed to learn of TDCJ’s decision to block prisoner access this year to two books: "Women Behind Bars: The Crisis of Women in the U.S. Prison System," by journalist Silja J.A. Talvi and "Perpetual Prisoner Machine: How America Profits from Crime" by Joel Dyer.

I’m writing to urge you to reconsider your department’s decision and allow prisoners to order books on prison conditions and criminal justice policy – even when those books contain graphic passages.

As you know, the passages cited by the department in banning these books were not gratuitous or pornographic, they are critical to a discussion of the history of women in prison in America and overcrowding issues.

The open flow of information is critical to allowing prisoners to educate themselves and prepare for release. It is natural for prisoners to be interested in studying the nature and history of our country’s criminal justice system, and denying access to this information will only breed distrust and resentment.

Please take action today and change the department’s policy on these two books.

I appreciate your time and attention to this issue.


Matt Kelley started this petition with a single signature, and now has 543 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.