Arizona Prisons Lifts Book Ban

Officials in Arizona banned prisoners from reading a book about mass incarceration

REVERSED: Arizona Department of Corrections

CORRECTION OFFICIALS in Arizona have lifted a ban which blocked inmates from reading a book which criticised the U.S criminal justice system.

The ban caused controversy after the book entitled Chokehold: Policing Black Menwas described as being potentially “detrimental to the safe, secure and orderly operation” of prison facilities.

After the ban last month, ACLU lawyers wrote a letter stating that while corrections officials have the right to regulate what inmates read, it is “unconstitutional to censor a book that explores how prisons have shaped the lives of black men.”

On May 16, attorney Emerson Sykes sent a letter addressed to Corrections Director Charles Ryan. She wrote: “The very people who experience extreme racial disparity in incarceration cannot be prohibited from reading a book whose purpose is to examine and educate about that disparity.”

“To prohibit prisoners from reading a book about race and the criminal legal system is not only misguided and harmful, but also violates the right to free speech under the First Amendment of the US. Constitution and … the Arizona Constitution.”

The book’s author, Paul Butler, told NPR that he never understood why the book was considered as 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 told NPR. “Providing books to inmates promotes literacy, rehabilitation and civic engagement.”

In the book, Butler, a former federal prosecutor, argues for a radical rethinking of prison policy, even advocating abolishing prisons altogether.

Following the reversal of the ban, Butler took to Twitter, writing: “We won! Arizona reversed its ban of my book “Chokehold: Policing Black Men” after threat of a lawsuit by the ACLU. This is a victory for the inmate who wanted to read my book, and for literacy and justice.”

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