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Social Justice Blog
Social Justice Blog
Prison: Books are Dangerous
|Posted on November 17, 2018 at 9:30 AM|
Books can be dangerous. The best ones should be labeled ‘This could change your life’.” ― Helen Exley
In the US prison system, they totally believe the first sentence of the quote and totally discount second sentence in the quote. In Brazil they appear to read the whole quote, since there you can get four days off your sentence if you read a book and then write a paper about it (Reeves, 2017).
Why would you want to 'coddle' prisoners like this? A couple of reasons, first it saves the taxpayers money and secondly, it helps to saves people from returning to prisons. According to Livni (2016) reading books reduced recidivism from 45 per cent to 19 per cent
The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) seems to have decided that books are just plain dangerous. They now require that any prisoner who wants books must first buy a $147 tablet so they can get books from a single company; prison telecommunications giant GTL (Lincoln, 2016) According to Lincoln, Prisoners make less than $1 an hour. So they would have to work all most a month before they could buy a tablet. In such case, they would have to be able to devote all of their time and money to reading books.
Of the 8500 titles on the prison book list many of them are already free from the Project Gutenberg. Yet even the free books are not free to prisoners. The prisoners still get charged for them. Unbelievable suppression of learning is demonstrated by the policy. Book prices may range from $2.99 to $8.99. For non-public domain books the prices are higher than one would pay for them at a bookstore.
GTL like other prison companies get such deals by lobby of state and federal legislators and by contributing to government office holders at the Federal, State and Local. Direct campaign contributions are received by government officers from companies that provide prison services or provide private prisons. Those same companies are big supporters of Professional corrections associations providing those organizations with: sponsorship, vendor fees, advertisements and general support contributions.
Unfortunately, Pennsylvania is not the only state which restricts books in prisons. Texas bans some 11,000 titles including works by William Shakespeare, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Sojourner Truth If you don’t believe in redemption or that people can change their lives, then you want to keep prisoners returning to prison. Prisoners already suffer from lower literacy rates then the general public Prisons have the authority to ban books because of federal regulations allow the use of the code not to make prisons safer but simply to reduce access of prisoners to books because they have the power to do so.
So what can you do? Keep an eye out for laws requiring prisoners must buy electronic equipment to read books and oppose such a mandate. Donate to agencies that give books to prisoners.
Guy R. Grant
Bala (2018) (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/theres-a-war-on-books-in-prisons-it-needs-to-end/2018/02/08/c31cd122-02b3-11e8-8acf-ad2991367d9d_story.html?utm_term=.9e6d9a6c2455
In The Public Interest (2016) (https://www.inthepublicinterest.org/buying-influence-how-private-prison-companies-expand-their-control-of-americas-criminal-justice-system/
Lincoln, J. (2018) https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/incarcerated-pennsylvanians-now-have-to-pay-150-to-read-we-should-all-be-outraged/2018/10/11/51f548b8-cbd9-11e8-a85c-0bbe30c19e8f_story.html?utm_term=.d3c674ee8481)
Livni (2016) https://qz.com/7963B69/to-decrease-recidivism-rates-give-prisoners-more-books/
O'Neill (2017) https://www.followthemoney.org/research/institute-reports/prisons-and-politics-profiling-the-pecuniary-political-persistence-of-private-prisons)
Rampey, et. al. (2016) Table 1.2 on page 6 of https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2016/2016040.pdf
Reeves (2017) https://www.npr.org/2017/07/04/535530400/in-brazil-some-inmates-are-using-a-novel-way-to-get-out-of-prison-earlier
Categories: Reducing Recidivism