Thursday, July 19, 2007

More Details On Federal Censoring of Prison Chapel Libraries Disclosed

As reported last month, the federal Bureau of Prisons has removed many books from prison chapel libraries in order to guard against radicalization of Muslim inmates. Now New York's Jewish Week reports more details, stemming from disclosures at a hearing on May 31 in a suit filed by a Jewish, Christian and Muslim inmate in Otisville, New York. Apparently religious experts of various faiths reviewed the holdings in prison chapel libraries and certified 150 books and 150 audio-video items for each religion. Bureau of Prisons spokesman Michael Truman said that as of June 1, "any books not listed on the standardized list were placed in storage until they can be reviewed for content, currency and condition by SMEs [subject matter experts].... As books are reviewed and certified as free of discrimination, violence and radicalization, the lists for each religion will be updated to incorporate additional books into the standard libraries.... Media that are determined to contain discriminatory, violent or radical material will be discarded."

Jewish prisoner, Moshe Milstein, testified that some 600 Jewish books were removed from the Otisville prison library under the new policy, including many standard classical texts. Both the American Jewish Committee (press release) and four Orthodox Jewish groups have sent letters to the Bureau of Prisons saying that the purging of libraries was an over reaction. The new policy follows a 2006 Senate Hearing at which witnesses warned that Muslim prisoners were being radicalized inside U.S. prisons. (2006 AP Report).