US federal prisons return religious materials to prison libraries

[JURIST] The US federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) [official website] said Wednesday that it will reshelve all religious material taken from prison chapel libraries originally determined to fall outside of the agency's approved list of materials. The BOP made the decision to temporarily end the Standardized Chapel Library Project in light of growing criticism from a wide spectrum of religious and secular leaders. The BOP says it produced the list of limited material based on a 2004 report [PDF text] by the US Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General [official website], which provided recommendations for curbing violence and derogation related to Muslim extremism in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks [JURIST news archive]. The BOP will begin to return all religious material to chapel libraries, except anything deemed to incite violence or encourage radicalism.

Earlier this month, several inmates in a federal penitentiary in New York filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] against the BOP claiming that the removal of religious texts violated the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act [text]. The move to restrict prisoners' access to reading materials is not unprecedented; in June 2006, the US Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] in favor of allowing federal prisons to prevent the most difficult inmates from reading and possessing general-interest newspapers and magazines. The New York Times has more.



 

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