A South Carolina jail has ruled that all inmates in the jail are not allowed to have any books whatsoever, except the bible. The jailers in Moncks Corner, South Carolina are receiving national scrutiny for passing the rule, which some claim to be a violation of freedom of speech and patently disrespectful to those who are not Christian. There is also the concern that inmates are not given any opportunity to expand their minds or better themselves during their incarceration.
The U.S. Justice Department has filed a complaint against the jail, and joined the American Civil Liberties Union in its lawsuit. In an email quoted by the Associated Press, one of the jail officials by the name of First Sgt. K. Habersham said: “Our inmates are only allowed to receive soft back bibles in the mail directly from the publisher…. They are not allowed to have magazines, newspapers, or any other type of books.”
One has to wonder why we would go out of our way to keep prison inmates uneducated and unproductive. Those of us who feel that we are being tough on crime by overspending to incarcerate and destroying the families of those who are in prison should think again. By locking up more of our citizens than any country in the world and then refusing to give them avenues to become productive members of society, we are shooting our nation in the foot. It is likely the case that the massive amount of money being earned by sending people to prison has distorted our view of Democracy, leading us away from the fundamental tenets of a free society.
But it must be remembered that this is just one jail in one town. The Justice Department appears to be on the case, and I presume they are going to have to let go of this archaic rule at some point in the near future. At the same time, it is a telling reminder that our nation needs to elevate and mature its thinking as it pertains to the way we deal with incarcerated Americans.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.