New York's prison system in its enlightened wisdom just launched a pilot program drastically limiting books and other care packages for inmates to a list of approved vendors. Their goal is to "enhance the safety and security" of prisons - not, we're sure, to discourage reading/ thinking/ growing that might cut profits for the greedy old white men who run them. Of 77 approved titles, 45 are puzzle or coloring books; the rest are bibles, magazines, sex novels, a dictionary. What they are not: the Cleaver, Baldwin, Hawking, biology and history books inmates now read to find hope, connection, "food for the soul" and "a bit of light (in) this darkest corner of New York."
Denying books to prisoners sounds like cruel and unusual punishment to me. It also sounds incredibly stupid if you want a calm and placid prison population. Bored people with nothing to think about except their own miserable surroundings are much more likely to cause trouble than people whose minds are engaged and transported by reading.
With deadly opioid** addiction becoming so rampant that US life expectancy has declined for the third year - particularly in the rust belt, the smuggling of dangerous blotter-fentanyl dropped on the pages of books sent to the inmates is becoming a major problem in US prisons and is almost impossible to detect.
But surely, they could expand the supplier of gift books to include any bookseller that ships directly to the prison such as Amazon (I hate Amazon but in this case it would be the easiest solution). So, it looks like the opioid problem is becoming an oh-so convenient excuse to make the brutality of US prisons more brutal. And shouldn’t prisons already have a well stocked library with a large diversity of books?
Of course, in more enlightened countries, prisons look like this:
**Neither “opioid” nor “fentanyl” is in my Firefox browser’s spell checker… and another thing - why is the opioid epidemic so totally off the radar of the US-left? Is it because it is largely a catastrophe limited to the unfashionable rust belt, Appalachia, and “flyover states”?
I felt compelled to at least say something so I found Anthony J. Annucci, New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision on Facebook.
The people housed in your prisons come to you as criminals. Many of them will continue that path once released. The prospect of more punishment will deter some of them but, as we all know, that only goes so far. An inability to envision and learn a better way to live will keep the majority of them from changing for the better. Ignorance is prevalent among the criminal element. Your Directive 4911A is also ignorant. “ It could be pretty effective at discouraging reading, which leads to thinking, which leads to learning, growing and, according to research on recidivism, getting it together to make a new life, all of which trends might lead to cutting into profits for the greedy old white men who run prisons.”
“The current, draconian, almost laughably pathetic list of approved titles seem highly unlikely to spark educational passion. Of just 77 titles approved, 45 are puzzle or coloring books; the rest are junk romance/sex novels, Bibles and religious texts, incongruous how-to books, and the occasional dictionary or thesaurus. Selections from one vendor include Running a Restaurant for Dummies, A Beautiful Satan, A Beautiful Satan 2: Natasha’s Wrath and a Scrabble dictionary; another offers the Bible, coloring books and magazines including GQ, People, and Car and Driver.”
Beyond profit and job security for the prison system, putting inmates into a form of mental stasis equates into a threat to society. Having the same person that went in come out is going to keep the criminals on our streets. It may be a form of justice having them locked up, but what you are doing with the prison system and Directive 4911A is an injustice to society. By ensuring a higher level of crime returning to us, possibly for your own gain, you become a criminal of a higher order and, perhaps, an ignorant one at that.
Thank goodness there are still a few politicians who maintain some semblance of sanity in the increasingly mindless and subversive indignities being perpetrated against the voters by too many of our profiteering government leaders who no longer listen to the will of their constituents, but only to the sound of the voices who pay them to listen as long as their bank accounts continue to increase! They are completely out of control, and we need to do whatever it takes to remedy the problem because we are very close to losing our democracy as well as what little freedom we might still have.