A handful of New Jersey prisons have lifted their ban on the novel, "The New Jim Crow," after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) claimed it violated inmates' first amendment constitutional rights.
"The New Jim Crow," an award-winning novel written in 2010, discusses the discrimination African-Americans face in the criminal justice system and the high number of black incarceration rates. The ACLU was able to obtain a list of books that are banned in some New Jersey prisons and were shocked to see that "The New Jim Crow" was on the list.
Aside from concerns about the inmates' rights, what is most troubling about the book's ban is that New Jersey actually leads the country in the largest disparity between white and black incarceration rates.
BREAKING: New Jersey prisons have now banned "The New Jim Crow."— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) January 8, 2018
This is a gross overreach of their power. @ACLUNJ is challenging the ban as not only unconstitutional, but a violation of prison policy. https://t.co/LuQHzIsRaB
America. Where Hitler's book "Mein Kampf" is still permitted but Michelle Alexander's "The New Jim Crow" is banned. https://t.co/OSTLHQrbb9— Shane Claiborne (@ShaneClaiborne) January 8, 2018
"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," stated an ACLU attorney in a letter to New Jersey's corrections commissioner, Gary Lanigan.
Michelle Alexander, the book's author, also weighed in on the ban stating, "Those who run our prisons and jails seem determined to keep those who are locked up and locked out as ignorant as possible about the racial, social and political forces that have turned this country into the most punitive nation on earth."
Alongside of "The New Jim Crow" on the list of banned books was "My Infamous Life: The Autobiography of Mobb Deep's Prodigy," "The Last Narco: Inside the Hunt for El Chapo, the World's Most Wanted Drug Lord," and other crime novels including "In the Minds of Murderers" and "The World's Most Evil Psychopaths."
While it is quite clear as to why those novels would not be suggested reading for inmates, "The New Jim Crow" being banned simply didn't make sense. Though if one thinks about it, it actually isn't that large of a mystery.
"There is no reasonable explanation for this one: prison officials must fear what would happen if people fully understood how biased and corrupt our so-called justice system actually is," the book's author stated.
Finally, on Monday, New Jersey correction officials released a statement saying they would lift the ban, allowing inmates access to the best-selling novel. And while this doesn't fix the numerous problems present in our incredibly flawed justice system, it is a small win making the system a little bit more fair.