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In November, I penned a piece for Change.org about the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s ban on two books that advocated for prison reform.

This week, friend Matt Kelley brought to my attention that Texas is now banning John Grisham novels. Kelley describes the sophisticated approach of the TDCJ:

The system is fairly arbitrary – prison mailroom staff look for offensive images and make the decision on the spot. Prisoners can appeal to state officials, but it’s tough to argue on behalf of a book you can’t see.

C’mon! Really? Add your name to over 500 petitioners.

BANNED BOOK S PETITION

Two weeks ago I penned an article about the banning of books in Texas prisons. Attached to the article was a petition to Brad Livingston, Director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

If you are opposed to politically motivated censorship, I urge you to sign the petition. Let me remind you that the book was about the conditions of women in American prisons and it was banned for describing the abuses two females had suffered early in life; abuses that had shaped self-destructive behaviour and consequent incarceration. The descriptions were not graphic. The descriptions were essential for discussion of cycles of violence, perpetrators and victims, and hopes for help instead of punishment.

If you need convincing that petition’s have an effect, I point to Change.org’s previous direct action that caused the Virginia Department of Corrections to overturn their ban on the Virginia Books Behind Bars program.

Signing the petition does mean making a profile at Change.org. Profiles are often a barrier to action but I ask that you put on your hurdling shoes in this instance.

Thanks, Pete

UPDATE: ALL PETITIONS

Change.org is so confident of the power of petitions they have set up a platform to deliver the petition tools of national non-profits to the hands of individuals.

“Our bloggers have recently begun using this tool to start petitions in response to news stories and have won close to a dozen campaigns – successfully pressuring companies and federal agencies to change their policies.”

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Three months ago, I wrote about Silja Talvi‘s excellent book Women Behind Bars.

It turns out the Texas Department of Criminal Justice also noticed it. They banned it – along with another book, Perpetual Prison Machine by Joel Dyer. Both books are distributed by Prison Legal News – a phenomenal non-profit based here in Seattle that educates America’s incarcerated class on its human and legal rights.

Prison Legal News has launched a lawsuit against staff and senior officials of the TDCJ. Money is not as issue here, principle is. “PLN is seeking compensatory, punitive and nominal damages plus declaratory and injunctive relief for violation of its rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as attorney fees and costs.”

“It is a sad commentary when government officials censor books sent to prisoners – particularly books that deal with prisoners’ rights and conditions in our nation’s prisons,” stated PLN editor Paul Wright. “Apparently, the TDCJ prefers that prisoners remain uninformed about issues that directly affect them. We believe this is a poor rationale for censorship.”

WHAT TO DO

Visit Change.org and read my brief article.

Download the full PLN lawsuit (PDF).

Sign the petition to the TDCJ for reversal of their censorship policy.

EMAIL

prisonphotography [at] gmail [dot] com

@BROOKPETE ON TWITTER

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