New Federal Prison Policies May Put Books and Email on Ice
World Book and Copyright Day falls on April 23rd each year. The day was chosen three of history's most famous writers - Cervantes, Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, all died on this day.
To mark the occasion, Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, the sponsoring organization, observed that "Books are at the intersection of some of the most essential human freedoms, primarily freedom of expression and freedom to publish. These are fragile freedoms. "
The truth of her words was on display just days before when Mark S. Inch, the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, attempted to defend the Bureau's latest policy initiative: making people who are incarcerated buy their own books through the prison bureaucracy for cost, shipping, and a 30 percent mark-up rather than letting families and friends order books for them. As explained by journalist Lauren Gill in an article that appeared in In Justice Today, this policy will delay shipment of books and make those that are ordered prohibitively expensive. The results are exactly as intended.
Depriving people in federal prison of reading material will make them increasingly bored, frustrated, and perhaps increase the chances of violence.
It would be hard to come up with a more counterproductive policy. Depriving people in federal prison of reading material will make them increasingly bored, frustrated, and perhaps increase the chances of violence. It will certainly add to the bureaucratic burden on overworked prison staff. It is hard to see how anyone benefits -- except, perhaps, whoever gets the 30 percent surtax imposed on each book. The final clue that this policy is about cruelty can be found in another provision which prohibits any mail made using crayon or markers, include "homemade greeting cards." No books and no children's drawings, even though education and family ties are the two most important factors in preventing recidivism. Not even the brilliant writers celebrated on World Book Day could explain why this policy makes sense.