A new program has drastically cut the kinds of books inmates inside New York State prisons can read.
According to Directive 4911A, the new order currently applies to three prisons in New York State and could become law across all facilities. The directive only allows for people inside the prison to receive packages from six vendors, with a reported two more to be added to the list. The new decision is something the Department of Corrections alleges will “enhance the safety and security of correctional facilities through a more controlled inmate package program.”
From the first five vendors there’s a total of 77 books: five romance novels, 14 religious texts, 24 drawing or coloring books, 21 puzzle books, 11 how-to books, and one dictionary and one thesaurus.
For more than 20 years, the Books Through Bars organization has sent books to inmates in more than 40 prisons for free. In a statement to Think Progress the collective outlined the limited book selection will have a grave impact on those in prison, and the communities they re-enter upon their release.
“[no] Jane Austen, Ernest Hemingway, Maya Angelou, or other literature that helps people connect with what it means to be human. No texts that help provide skills essential to finding and maintaining work after release from prison. No books about health, about history, about almost anything inside or outside the prison walls. This draconian restriction closes off so much of the world to thousands of people.”