Books are being removed from federal prison libraries in a long-delayed, post-Sept. 11 directive intended to prevent radical religious texts, particularly Islamic ones, from falling into the hands of violent inmates, says the Associated Press. Three inmates at the Otisville, N.Y., prison camp have filed a lawsuit over the policy, saying their constitutional rights were violated. They said all religions are affected. “The set of books that have been taken out have been ones that we used to minister to new converts when they come in here,” inmate John Okon, speaking on behalf of the prison’s Christian population, told a judge last week.
The government said the new rules don’t entirely clear the shelves of prison chapel libraries. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Feldman told U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain that prison libraries limited the number of books for each religion to between 100 and 150 under the new rules. He said officials would expand that after choosing a new list of permitted books. The removal order stemmed from a 2004 Department of Justice review of how prisons choose Muslim religious services providers. It is not clear why it took so long for the order to be put into effect, but officials said they needed time to examine a long list of books.