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September 10, 2007

The ironic purge of prison religious readings

When a group of 18th century progressives imagined alternatives to capital and corporeal punishment, they "proposed a radical idea: to build a true penitentiary, a prison designed to create genuine regret and penitence in the criminal's heart." They built a prison in which in a "vaulted, skylit cell, the prisoner had only the light from heaven, the word of God (the Bible) and honest work (shoemaking, weaving, and the like) to lead to penitence." (Quotes from this history of the historic Eastern State Penitentiary.)

Knowing that the Bible was originally to be the only reading allowed prisoners, it is thus sadly ironic to see this story in today's New York Times, entitled "Prisons Purging Books on Faith From Library."  Here is how the piece begins:

Behind the walls of federal prisons nationwide, chaplains have been quietly carrying out a systematic purge of religious books and materials that were once available to prisoners in chapel libraries.  The chaplains were directed by the Bureau of Prisons to clear the shelves of any books, tapes, CDs and videos that are not on a list of approved resources.  In some prisons, the chaplains have recently dismantled libraries that had thousands of texts collected over decades, bought by the prisons, or donated by churches and religious groups.

September 10, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink


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How sad. How very sad.

Posted by: Steve Erickson | Sep 10, 2007 12:56:12 PM

I agree, truly sad. As a former federal prison camp inmate. My bible, God's Holy word and the resources of books, videos and audio materials were helpful to escape a few moments of prison life and focus on my faith that kept me going. Even the people from local churches brought comfort to the inmates as they visited.
In my opinion, I believe the BOP fears God and like the schools and court rooms they want Him out. Again, How sad.

Posted by: Rickey Brunet | Sep 17, 2007 2:05:01 AM

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