When you have to spend a few months or a few years in prison, one way to pass the time is to surround yourself with literature. (Activist Leslie Zukor learned about how atheist books were rarely found in prisons and began a freethought books to prisoners drive. It was incredible how many prisoners requested books from her.)
It seems that acquiring atheist books isn’t anywhere in the radar for the Berkeley County Detention Center in South Carolina, though. They’re far more strict about what prisoners are allowed to read (PDF).
The Detention Center has a policy and practice of allowing detainees to order from a publisher, and receive by mail, a soft-cover Bible – but no other books, magazines, or newspapers.
The Detention Center does not have a library to provide detainees access to reading materials.
The combination of the ban on incoming publications and the lack of a library means that detainees have no access to any sort of magazine, newspaper, or book, other than the Bible, while at the Detention Center.
Many detainees are held at the Detention Center – and thus deprived of all access to magazines, newspapers, and books, other than the Bible – for months or years on end.
The ACLU has filed a lawsuit (on behalf of Prison Legal News and the Human Rights Defense Center) against the Berkeley County Sheriff and employees of the detention center.
If the Detention Center wanted to limit their prisoners to one book, you would think they could’ve gone with something less violent…
It seems like an open/shut case to me, if the claims are accurate. What would be the upside to a policy like this? I have no clue.
But it makes me have all the more appreciation for people like Leslie who do what they can to make sure prisoners are exposed to more ideas about religion, not fewer.
(Thanks to CarrieBeth for the link)