Monday, June 11, 2007

So much for rehabilitation

It's mostly books about Islam -- surprise, surprise -- but still. I don't think that every person behind bars that picks up a book automatically sprouts a countdown-towards-rehabilitation timer on their foreheads, but at the same time, flipping a few pages is a lot better than parking a shiv between someone's ribs.
Feldman said inmates are permitted to order books on their own and bypass the chapel libraries. "So fundamentally this is not a case about what books the inmates have the ability to read," he said.

However, inmates say the rules have had a chilling effect.

Inmate Moshe Milstein told the judge by telephone that the chaplain at Otisville removed about 600 books from the chapel library on Memorial Day, including Harold S. Kushner's best-seller "When Bad Things Happen to Good People," a book that Norman Vincent Peale said was "a book that all humanity needs."

"There is definitely irreparable harm done to us already, and we would like the court to issue the injunction to get the books back as soon as possible," he said.

Inmate Douglas Kelly, who described himself as a representative of the prison's Muslim community, complained of "a denial of our First Amendment rights."

He said books on Islam already were the least represented in the library's collections and were reduced by half in the Memorial Day removal.

"A lot of what we are missing were definitely prayer books or prayer guides and religious laws on the part of the Muslim faith," he said.

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