Some New Jersey prisons added Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow to their list of banned publications, The Guardian reported. Officials are concerned that the book’s powerful message could awaken inmates to discrimination in the criminal justice system.
“For the state burdened with this systemic injustice to prohibit prisoners from reading a book about race and mass incarceration is grossly ironic, misguided, and harmful,” Tess Borden, an ACLU staff attorney, said a letter to New Jersey’s corrections commissioner, noting that the state has the nation’s largest racial disparity incarceration rate.
The ACLU, which obtained the list from a public records request, argued that the ban violated the inmates’ First Amendment rights. Prisoners are typically banned from obtaining reading material that would incite violence or instruct them on how to do things like create explosive devices. The book does neither of those things. Instead, it illuminates the true nature of the contemporary system of racial control and the role of the criminal justice system in that scheme. Their fear is having Black inmates who are wise to the system.
Here’s a small taste of what folks are saying on Twitter.