Prisoners’ Right to Read

Do people behind bars have the right to read? The American Library Association believes so. On June 29, 2010, the Prisoners’ Right to Read was adopted by the ALA Council as an amendment to the Library Bill of Rights.

Q: Why is reading vital in the Prison Industrial Complex?
A: The ALA says “The right to choose what to read is deeply important, and the suppression of ideas is fatal to a democratic society” (ALA).

Below is the main points in the adopted Prisoners’ Rights to Read:

These principles should guide all library services provided to prisoners:

  • Collection management should be governed by written policy, mutually agreed upon by librarians and correctional agency administrators, in accordance with the Library Bill of Rights, its Interpretations, and other ALA intellectual freedom documents.
  • Correctional libraries should have written procedures for addressing challenges to library materials, including a policy-based description of the disqualifying features, in accordance with “Challenged Materials” and other relevant intellectual freedom documents.
  • Correctional librarians should select materials that reflect the demographic composition, information needs, interests, and diverse cultural values of the confined communities they serve.
  • Correctional librarians should be allowed to purchase materials that meet written selection criteria and provide for the multi-faceted needs of their populations without prior correctional agency review. They should be allowed to acquire materials from a wide range of sources in order to ensure a broad and diverse collection. Correctional librarians should not be limited to purchasing from a list of approved materials.
  • Age is not a reason for censorship. Incarcerated children and youth should have access to a wide range of fiction and nonfiction, as stated in “Free Access to Libraries for Minors.”
  • Correctional librarians should make all reasonable efforts to provide sufficient materials to meet the information and recreational needs of prisoners who speak languages other than English.
  • Equitable access to information should be provided for persons with disabilities as outlined in “Services to People with Disabilities.”
  • Media or materials with non-traditional bindings should not be prohibited unless they present an actual compelling and imminent risk to safety and security.
  • Material with sexual content should not be banned unless it violates state and federal law.
  • Correctional libraries should provide access to computers and the Internet. (ALA)

Are there other prisoners’ rights to consider? And what does the PIC think about this rights that are not necessarily seen the actual law? This week and the following we will explore some prisoners’ rights that affect prisoners as patrons.

Resources:
ALA. Prisoners’ Right to Read. ALA.

The following are the rest of the blog posts in my exploration on prisoners’ rights that affect them as patrons:

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