Today's Date: March 23, 2023
CRTC to improve access to Internet and mobile services across Canada   •   Burns & Levinson Attorney Kelly Kirby Ballentine Named a 2023 "Up & Coming Lawyer" by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly   •   Electra Provides Notice of Fourth Quarter 2022 Results Conference Call and Webcast   •   Government of Canada and the First Nations-led institutions under the Act highlight new proposed legislative amendments to the F   •   Xavier Cole named 18th president of Loyola University New Orleans   •   Bari Weiss Announced as Keynote Speaker for The Policy Circle's Leadership Summit   •   /C O R R E C T I O N -- Autism Speaks/   •   Calix Taps Transformational Customer Success Leader Martha Galley To Helm New Corporate Social Responsibility Office and Drive E   •   Aptar Named a CDP Supplier Engagement Leader for the Third Consecutive Year   •   Canadian securities regulators publish detailed data for eighth annual review of representation of women on boards in Canada   •   HealthTrust Named to Becker’s Top 150 Places to Work in Healthcare   •   Vasta Announces Fourth Quarter 2022 Results   •   Arts in Hong Kong: A Vibrant Citywide Celebration of Creativity   •   University of Phoenix College of Doctoral Studies Releases Whitepaper Focusing on Pandemic Impacts to Canadian Nurse Workforce   •   Gaming Arts will showcase an impressive lineup of new titles displaying creativity and innovation at IGA 2023   •   Rite Aid to Release Fourth Quarter Results on April 20   •   NEI sets human rights, inequality, net zero, nature as focus themes for corporate engagement   •   $12.5 million announced to build new healing house in Tḱemlúps te Secwépemc   •   CF Industries Publishes 2022 Sustainability and Annual Reports   •   Vasta announces CEO transition plan
Bookmark and Share

Dept. Of Corrections Lifts Ban On 'Books Behind Bars' Program, Recognizes Inmates' Rights




Victory: After Intervention By Rutherford Institute, Dept. Of Corrections Lifts Ban On 'Books Behind Bars' Program, Recognizes Inmates' Rights

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- At the urging of The Rutherford Institute and a general outcry from the community at large, the Virginia Department of Corrections has withdrawn a directive forbidding prison inmates from receiving free books from the Charlottesville-based Quest Institute, a non-profit whose "Books Behind Bars" program has distributed more than a million books to 11,000 inmates over the course of its 20-year history. 

In a letter to Kay Allison, president of Quest Institute, Inc., Gene Johnson, director of the Department of Corrections, indicated that the Department would restore the prisoners' ability to receive up to three books per month from the program. As Allison noted in a letter to The Rutherford Institute, "There really are no words to describe my gratitude to you. You have turned it around--making a difference for all of the inmates, showing them that there is a way for their voice to be heard!"

The policy change came a day after The Rutherford Institute sent a letter to Director Johnson charging that the months-long restriction on Books Behind Bars amounted to an unwarranted and clear violation of the First Amendment rights of prison inmates who might benefit from the program, as well as the Quest Institute. 

"We are pleased that the Department of Corrections came to their senses and recognized that Books Behind Bars has a clear First Amendment right to provide books and information to inmates and inmates have a right to receive them," said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. "This is a remarkable program, and we're glad to have helped ensure its continued service to the community."

For over 20 years, "Books Behind Bars" has provided books free of charge to prison inmates in Virginia and other states. The program responds to requests from inmates for books on specific topics in order to satisfy the intellectual interests and spiritual needs of individual inmates. Books Behind Bars provides inmates with books for which they have a continuing need, such as dictionaries, books on religion, including the Bible and the Koran, meditation, art, literature and a variety of other topics. 

However, earlier this year, Department officials issued a directive prohibiting inmates from receiving books sent by Books Behind Bars. Despite inquiries by Allison and pleas that the program be allowed to continue, the department failed to provide any clear explanation for its act of censorship. When Allison sought to have the decision reconsidered, the ban was extended to all prisons within the Correction Department's Central Region and thereafter to all facilities of the Department. Conflicting explanations have surfaced relating to the ban on materials from the Books Behind Bars program. One account indicates that the ban was allegedly instituted after only one book sent by the program was found to contain paper clips. Another account suggests that the ban was allegedly put in place after program volunteers failed to remove a compact disc from another book. 

Yet, as Rutherford Institute attorneys pointed out in their letter, even if such incidents reflect legitimate concerns, they do not warrant denying essential First Amendment freedoms to Quest and Books Behind Bars. As Rutherford Institute attorneys stated in the letter, "Various courts have long recognized that the First Amendment protects the right of entities and individuals to send books and information to inmates."






Back to top
| Back to home page

White House Live Stream
alsharpton Rev. Al Sharpton
9 to 11 am EST
jjackson Rev. Jesse Jackson
10 to noon CST


Sounds Make the News ®
Atlanta - WAOK-Urban
Berkley / San Francisco - KPFA-Progressive
Chicago - WVON-Urban
KJLH - Urban
Los Angeles - KJLH - Urban
WKDM-Mandarin Chinese
New York - WKDM-Mandarin Chinese
New York - WADO-Spanish
WBAI - Progressive
New York - WBAI - Progressive
Washington - WOL-Urban

Listen to United Natiosns News