In Reversal, MD Allows Inmates to Get Outside Books

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Maryland prison officials reversed a statewide policy that limited access to books for thousands of inmates as part of an effort to reduce drug smuggling, the Washington Post reports. Prisoners can immediately begin receiving book shipments directly from relatives and online retailers, said Public Safety and Correctional Services Secretary Stephen Moyer. The corrections department also lifted its constraints on how often inmates can order through prison-approved vendors. “The department strongly believes it can continue prioritizing the safety and security of its correctional facilities while fostering the rehabilitative component of corrections through literature,” Moyer told the American Civil Liberties Union.

Prison officials put new book-ordering restrictions in place in April in response to the high volume of drugs being trafficked into state facilities, including in the pages of books. The decision to rescind the policy came after criticism from lawmakers, inmates and their families. The ACLU characterized the restrictions as an unconstitutional, “virtual book ban.” The ACLU’s Sonia Kumar said, “We are extremely glad they have rescinded what was clearly a misguided policy and are affirming their commitment to making sure people have access to books.” State officials initially defended the policy that restricted inmates to 10 book purchases every three months from two vendors that distributed paper catalogues. Federal prison officials scrapped similar book-ordering restrictions in May after inquiries from the Post. Those limits were in place at federal facilities in Virginia and California and set to start in Florida. The federal procedures limited book orders to three vendors and included a 30 percent markup.

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