The New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision recently began operating on a directive issued last month that severely restricts the books people in prison can receive.
Directive 4911 is currently in effect at three prisons in the state but could be expanded to all facilities in the state, according to ThinkProgress. The initiative does not just extend to books. It also only allows friends and family members to send items that are purchased from six prechosen vendors.
That list is expected to expand to eight, in what DOCCS claims (pdf) is a move that will “enhance the safety and security of correctional facilities through a more controlled inmate package program.”
Hmm. Who is profiting off of this, and who stands to lose the most?
But wait, there’s more. From ThinkProgress:
The first five vendors combined offered just five romance novels, 14 religious texts, 24 drawing or coloring books, 21 puzzle books, 11 how-to books, one dictionary and one thesaurus. Last week, the state appeared to add a sixth vendor, but the full catalog doesn’t appear to be available to people in prison in the state, and the governor’s office did not respond to questions about the addition.
And there appear to be more-horrible restrictions on top of that.
According to the document, people in prison may not receive packages containing fresh fruit or vegetables. Instead, they may only be provided with sugary, starchy or otherwise unhealthy snacks.
This, of course, comes at a cost to the families of people in prison. Items from the vendors are likely to come at a substantially higher cost than normal. Systems such as these are intentionally put in place to bilk the families.
I’ve said it before, and I will say it again here: Our criminal-justice system functions as a government fundraiser. The government is getting a piece off of the people forced to do time in that system any and every way it can.
It’s a travesty.
Worth noting: There is an organization that has been sending books to incarcerated people in 40 states at no charge for the last 20 years. Something like what NY DOCCS is doing now would make what Books Through Bars does impossible. Because the group is not on the approved list of vendors, people in prison and their families would not be able to choose a book on any topic and have it sent to them for free.
There is evidence to show that having access to books can help improve the time people spend in prison and better equip them for when they come out.
What NY DOCCs is doing shows it is not in the business of rehabilitation. More likely it is there to profit off of imprisonment and recidivism.
Read more at ThinkProgress.