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SC Jail Lets Inmates Only Read Bible

SC Jail Lets Inmates Only Read Bible

It’s one thing to restrict prison inmates access to certain reading materials.  It’s another thing all together to restrict it to access only to the Bible.  But that was the policy of one South Carolina jail, according to a federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The 16-page complaint alleges that officials at the Berkeley County jail in Moncks Corner is violating inmates constitutional rights of free speech, freedom of religion and right to due process by refusing them any reading materials other than soft black Bibles.  Inmates are not allowed newspapers, magazines, or any other kind of book.  The jail doesn’t have a library and officials have not backed away from the policy.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Prison Legal News, a monthly journal on prison law distributed across the nation to prisoners, attorneys, judges, law libraries and other subscribers.  The magazine provides information about legal issues such as court access, disciplinary hearings, prison conditions, excessive force, mail censorship, prison and jail litigation, religious freedom, prison rape and the death penalty.  Prison Legal News also distributes various books targeted at creating a better understanding of criminal justice policies and allowing prisoners to educate themselves in such areas as how to write a business letter and seek employment to health care in prison.

It’s not just that the policy is unconstitutional, it’s that if flies in the face of any effort at transitioning inmates for life outside of confinement.  By not even giving folks a chance we’ve guaranteed that they remain on tax payer support, in some fashion, indefinitely. 

It’s easy to forget that rehabilitation is an essential part of any functional criminal justice system and that rehabilitation at its core means self-sufficiency.  Assisting inmates in finding employment and securing health care enables that kind of self-sufficiency and works towards the common goal of keeping citizens out of jail.  It’s not a hand-out nor is it “rewarding” inmates for prior bad behavior.  It’s just common sense. 

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photo courtesy of Valerie's Geneology Photo's via Flickr

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157 comments

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8:04AM PDT on Apr 23, 2011

This is problematic in so many ways. Where does one begin? For starters, let's not judge a man before we've walked a mile in his moccasins. Going on from there, if poor education and poverty are part of the reason people are reduced to criminality, then what better way of rehabilitating them than to expose them to a wide range of literature and encourage reading?

11:49AM PST on Feb 8, 2011

Terry S. " I never did enjoy reading superstition-based fantasies."
and Kay L."reading nothing else becomes mind-numbingly boring in no time flat!": I totally agree.

2:11PM PDT on Oct 14, 2010

Well, I just hope to never end up in Berkeley County jail, I woukd die of boredom!

5:31PM PDT on Oct 12, 2010

hi. anja
do you honestly believe that those inmates are guilty beyond any reasonable doubt i must remain convinced the answer is NO until proven otherwise there is a fair chance that yes a higher percentage could indeed have committed some form of crime

5:24PM PDT on Oct 12, 2010

look how silly this one sided idea is even the jails are condemning the inmates a second time and if thats not enough the bible is thrown in the mix this is a very dangerous idea we must believe that even those running the jails are in need of reform they play little landlords in there

2:49PM PDT on Oct 12, 2010

Oh yeah, let's just brainwash the criminals. We should all know that religion just isn't helping anybody these days. Everyone is WAY to radical and pushy. Believe my religion or die!!! That's what I'm hearing a lot these days. And I know lots of people who read the bible that are NOT good people. It will not fix them. And Christianity isn't the only religion out there, why don't they offer other religious materials if they are actually trying to accomplish something. Those people should have access to other things. They should be able to educate themselves and learn how to live in the real world without being a criminal. They need to learn skills and be able to get a job. That's what will help them, not the freakin bible.

6:20PM PDT on Oct 11, 2010

Congratulations on the courage to honour God of the Bible, Jesus Christ His Son and the Word and the Holy Spirit through the decision........one soul saved through this action will be well worth it.

1:24PM PDT on Oct 11, 2010

Does the punishment fit the crime ever?
(Most of them) if they could have done nothing wrong, they would not be in there.

Rather brainwash them with the Bible than letting them hang on the internet!

9:54AM PDT on Oct 11, 2010

Quanta Kiran: You miss the point entirely. Enprisonment is your punishment for crime. Religious freedom still exists. Forcing Christianity on anyone, including prisoners, violates ethical and legal mores. It is a turn of irony that people use religion as a form of weaponry, which was ultimately what Jesus was against. Love thy brother as thyself.

4:06AM PDT on Oct 11, 2010

Wow, to commit a crime and then complain about the lack of freedom because there's only a bible to read?

Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill. There's a simple solution for this. Don't go to prison! Be a good citizen. Then you can have your choice of reading material.

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