September 28, 2007
Bureau of Prisons Re-shelves Religion Books
Now prisoners can find out Why Bad Things Happen to Good People
The federal Bureau of Prisons will return religious materials that were removed from prison chapel libraries to prevent religious extremism, according to the Associated Press.
The purged books that were removed included Christian discipleship materials (see CT's first story).
The material removed since June will be returned to prison chapel libraries unless it is found to be radicalizing or inciting violence. By June 2008, "what comes off the shelves will be a very, very small number, because the vast majority of material will be on the 'that's OK list,'" bureau spokeswoman Judi Simon Garrett told the AP.
Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Tex., still expresses concern:
"There's probably a limited universe of materials that incite violence, and I understand that perhaps those need to be banned," said Hensarling. "Instead, what the Bureau of Prisons appears to be doing is really censoring religious texts, deciding what is acceptable."
The New York Times' story says that previously, the bureau was not reconsidering the library policy, but it reversed its decision after receiving widespread criticism from lawmakers and religious groups.
But critics of the bureau's program said it appeared that the bureau had bowed to widespread outrage. "Certainly putting the books back on the shelves is a major victory, and it shows the outcry from all over the country was heard," said Moses Silverman, a lawyer for three prisoners who are suing the bureau over the program.
Prison Fellowship President Mark Early told the AP:
"It took years for chaplains, local churches and other religious organizations to build up the holdings of many prison chapel libraries. Prisoners need access to more material to promote rehabilitation, not less. We want to monitor the process."