Last week, the Federal Bureau of Prisons dropped their controversial book restriction policy regarding books for inmates.The policy would have prohibited direct delivery of books from publishers, book clubs and bookstores.
The new policy called for a seven-step process (30 percent price markup), and purchases would be available only through one private vendor. All of this information was disclosed through a copy of a memo by a Florida prison warden.
Under a 2011 policy, federal prisoners received books directly from a publisher, book club, or bookstore. By direct shipping from a third party vendor, the possibility of contraband was greatly reduced.Inmates at minimum-security prisons were allowed paperback books from any source, including family and friends.
In April, the Federal Bureau Director, Mark Inch, was interviewed intensively about the proposed restrictions by the Democratic congressmen of the Judiciary subcommittee. The decision by the Federal Prison Bureau to drop the policy was made shortly after the hearing.
New York state prison officials started restricting, in January, books and packages that could be mailed to state prisoners. After protests from inmates’ families and prison reform advocates, Gov. Cuomo revoked the draconian policy.
The alleged rationale for proposed restrictive book policies–curb contraband. However, contraband from books directly shipped from third party vendors is not the problem. The major sources of prison contraband (i.e. drugs, cell phones. etc.) are correctional officers, civilian workers, and lax inmate visitation ( friends & family).
The Bureau of Justice Statistics has reported that 75% of released inmates are rearrested within 5 years. Several studies have reported that reading reduces recidivism.
Twenty five years ago, a literature professor, Bob Waxler, advocated that reading can transform inmates.. The first group of his inmate’s reading program showed a 19% recidivism rate after a year, compared to 45% in a control group, and subsequent studies have repeated these results.