There’s no library at South Carolina’s Berkeley County Jail and only one book that inmates may read—the Bible. But that’s not all. Inmates there are forbidden to read newspapers and magazines, to boot.
“Prisoners who are incarcerated for extended periods of time have been deprived of access to magazines, newspapers and books – other than the Bible – for months or even years on end,” stated the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of its lawsuit filed in October against the jail for violating inmates’ constitutional rights. On May 2, a federal judge permitted the U.S. Justice Department to join the ACLU’s lawsuit as well.
The ACLU filed the suit on behalf of a monthly periodical called Prison Legal News. Issues of the magazine and books, such as Protecting Your Health and Safety, which informs prisoners of their rights, have reportedly been returned to sender in recent years because of the jail’s Bible-only policy. Prison officials responded to the suit by claiming to have only banned reading materials containing staples and nudity, but the ACLU recently filed a new motion arguing that the detention center sells legal pads with staples in them. So, the issue isn’t about staples but about censorship, the ACLU posits.
"There is no justification for denying detainees access to periodicals and in the process cutting them off from the outside world,” ACLU attorney David Shapiro told British newspaper the Guardian.
Tell the officials of Berkeley County, S.C., to say no to censorship. Inmates should be allowed to read a variety of works to hone their literacy skills and be informed citizens once they return to society.