Sunday, September 09, 2007

Prisons Purge Books on Faith From Libraries - New York Times

Prisons Purge Books on Faith From Libraries - New York Times: "Behind the walls of federal prisons nationwide, chaplains have been quietly carrying out a systematic purge of religious books and materials that were once available to prisoners in chapel libraries. "

I'm not sure this even needs or warrants editorial comment. I would imagine most librarians are suitably appalled. You might think that with a librarian in the first lady's seat, we wouldn't see this sort of blatent political interference from the White House even given the charged nature of prison libraries. The problem is, once the books and resources are gone, even a new administration won't bring them back. Sigh.


Alex Rowland said...

I am a prison librarian. I can confirm this information. The chapels do not have a right to keep any religious materials and faith attributes within their walls, because some faith symbols can be offensive to some believers. NYTimes’ article does not mention that prison chapels satisfy needs of members from all religious confessions. Our chapel serves as Synagogue, Mosque, Catholic chapel, Russian Orthodox Church, Baha Faith Temple, Mormon lodge, Buddha Pagoda etc. Prison chapel does not present only Sweating Lodge, which maintain on the prison back yard. All prisoners have right to religious freedom. In free world you have a choice where to go, in prison the chapel is just a place for religious practice. Prisoners can bring Bibles or Koran and read them during prays or meditations, but they cannot leave it there for sake of peace among different confessions. Even if our chapel could be a nice and big hall with tall ceiling and many shelves, to collect and support library primary sources of all worlds religious would be very expensive. It would be back-braking burden for law obedient taxpayers. You can say, that it is not necessary to collect all religious primary sources, just a few main of them. However, it will lead to discrimination of religious minorities, and therefore to new cases against chaplains and prison personnel. If Correctional Departments will allow to keep religious materials within chapels, personnel that should maintain all embraced libraries will face discrimination charges. Not everybody knows that personnel should perform all duties perfect, any fail will be used by prisoners to reduce their long sentences. Any violation of departments policies by prison officers is a reason to discharged conviction.
Each prison has a library. Each library keeps materials without any responsibilities in front of religious diversity. Collections develop thanks to donations. If library does not have some materials, it means they have not been donated yet. As rules, ex-offenders present their own books to prison library upon release.

Amy Chenail said...

Oh no! This is what I was going to blog on for class this week! You've beat me to it. There's a slightly different issue going on in London: Radical Books in London Libraries, but they've decided to keep all the books on the shelves because they aren't illegal and thus (I am assuming) it is the people's choice to pick them up and read them or not. (Hmm, adults being treated like adults by their own government--imagine that!)