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August 2019, Week 3

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 		 [Officials at Danville Correctional Center had removed some 200
books from a prison library and banned for use in the education
program “several classic books of African American history"]
[https://portside.org/] 

 IT’S ‘RACIAL’: PRISON BANNED BOOKS ON BLACK HISTORY  
[https://portside.org/2019-08-18/its-racial-prison-banned-books-black-history]


 

 Dara Sharif 
 August 16, 2019
The Root
[https://www.theroot.com/it-s-racial-illinois-prison-banned-books-on-black-hi-1837321399]


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 _ Officials at Danville Correctional Center had removed some 200
books from a prison library and banned for use in the education
program “several classic books of African American history" _ 

 , 

 

Some 3 out of every 4 inmates in Illinois prisons are black
[https://www2.illinois.gov/idoc/reportsandstatistics/Pages/Prison-Population-Data-Sets.aspx],
yet, an Illinois prison banned an inmate education program from using
books discussing black history or empowerment due to their
“racial” content.

Now, prison officials are apologizing and pledging to overhaul their
review system, according to the Chicago Tribune
[https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-illinois-prison-books-removed-inmate-education-20190815-6xlrmfwmovdxnbc3ohvsx6edgu-story.html],
but not before officials at Danville Correctional Center had removed
some 200 books from a prison library and banned for use in the
education program “several classic books of African American
history, including _The Souls of Black Folk,_ the anti-slavery
novel _Uncle Tom’s Cabin_ and the memoir of former slave and
abolitionist Frederick Douglass.”

According to Illinois correction records the Tribune received under a
Freedom of Information Act request, the dispute between the Illinois
Department of Corrections and the Education Justice Project run under
the auspices of the University of Illinois went back months.

As the Tribune explains:

The flap between the U. of I. program and IDOC officials started in
November, when EJP began the review process for the upcoming
semester’s books and course materials. That’s when a corrections
lieutenant told program officials that the problem with the materials
were that they were “racial,” according to testimony by EJP
Director Rebecca Ginsburg.

The EJP library is separate from the prison library, and it follows a
separate review process from reading materials sent to inmates through
the prison mailroom. But Ginsburg told lawmakers [at a July hearing
about the dustup] the review policy has gone through seven revisions
over the past four years.

In this case, records show, EJP submitted 25 books for approval. Of
those, four were denied outright, nine were allowed in for review but
then denied and 12 were approved. Among the books not allowed in for
review was “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our
Government Segregated America.” Books denied after review for the
spring semester deal largely with race and social issues, including
“Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe and “Incidents in
the Life of a Slave Girl” by Harriet Jacobs, both written in the
1800s.

During state legislative hearings over the matter in July, IDOC Acting
Director Rob Jeffreys, who just got the job in May, said things should
have been handled better and that the state welcomed books about
“the African-American experience.”

Jeffreys, according to the Tribune, said:

the situation prompted the department to hire a volunteer coordinator
and make “long overdue” revisions to its review procedure.

[...]

At that hearing in Chicago, Jeffreys didn’t talk about why the books
were removed — saying he didn’t “want to hash into” it — and
attributed the dispute to a lack of “sound process” and
“much-needed policy oversight.”

“While I’ve only been on this job a couple weeks, I can assure you
this: I am committing to ensuring that rehabilitation programming is
available to all men and women in our care,” Jeffreys told
lawmakers. “I believe expanding educational and vocational
opportunities is a key to breaking the cycle of incarceration for
thousands of Illinois’ families.”

Guess only time will tell.

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