AZ Relents, Allows ‘Policing Black Men’ Book in Prisons

Arizona corrections officials are allowing inmates to read a book criticizing the U.S. criminal justice system after initially pulling it from prisons over “unauthorized content,” reports NPR. An uproar over the ban of “Chokehold: Policing Black Men,” including threats of a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union, prompted the prison system to review a publication blacklist and allow the book. The author, Georgetown University law Prof. Paul Butler, said he never understood why his book was considered contraband. “I am concerned that many people in custody are subject to other illegal and unfair acts by jailers that most people on the outside never hear about,” Butler said. “Providing books to inmates promotes literacy, rehabilitation and civic engagement.”

In the book, former federal prosecutor Butler, argues for a radical rethinking of prison policy, even advocating abolishing prisons altogether. Arizona officials viewed the book as being potentially “detrimental to the safe, secure and orderly operation” of prison facilities. The American Civil Liberties Union argued that it is unconstitutional to censor a book that explores how prisons have shaped the lives of black men and “poses no threat to the safety and security of the facility.” ACLU lawyer Emerson Sykes said book bans still “are taking place in prisons and jails around the country,” When New Jersey prisons banned Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” the ACLU secured a swift reversal. Until recently, Pennsylvania bans included a book of Pablo Picasso paintings and the State Employees’ Retirement Code. State officials revised the policy to prohibit only books that detail escape methods, instruct the manufacture of drugs or create potential danger inside a correctional facility.


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