The CAN-DO Foundation has been notified (May 3) that the BOP has finally issued a statement regarding the BOP Book policy which will be suspended. We are not convinced it has been “cancelled” so we wait to see what the new memo says.
Ann Marimow at the Washington Post wrote the latest update on the BOP Book memo, entitled, Federal prisons abruptly cancel policy that made it harder, costlier for inmates to get books
Initially, CAN-DO worked with reporter Lauren Gill who broke the story in In Justice Today about the BOP Book memo that is already in effect in federal prisons such as FCI Victorville_memos and FCI Atwater. FCI Coleman claims they will no longer implement the memo due to go into effect May 14. See Coleman memo here: coleman
CAN-DO is currently working with a contingent of activists, Equal Justice Under the Law, Pen America, Every Library the National Council of Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls and concerned family member to formulate a plan forward with regard to the BOP memos that prohibit family members and friends from sending books to prisoners. Books are the life-line to one’s mental stability and self-edification when all other assets are taken from one’s life. Malcom X memorized the dictionary while locked up. It triggered his desire to educate himself by reading more books.
Our concern is that the BOP book memo is a back door way to censor what books prisoners will have access to. Under this current policy, prisoners must fill out paperwork, (199 form) submit it to commissary for them to check and later notify the prisoner as to whether it can be ordered and what it will cost. 30% increase over retail is madness for a segment of the population who has the least amount of money and creates wealth based discrimination. Only a very small percentage of the prison population has enough money to afford this extravagance. Prison libraries are no alternative. Amy Povah – president of CANDO served 9 years in federal prison and she knows all too well that prison libraries are mostly filled with paperback Harlequin romance books, or suspense thrillers by authors such as Stephen King. We want to ensure prisoners have access to books such as Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow and suspect the BOP might be opposed to certain books that run contrary to an unhealthy undercurrent in this nation to lock up more people who are forced to work in factories for less than $1 per hour.
Ironically, it doesn’t seem as if the BOP is opposed to allowing prisoners access to murder mystery and horror books.
We are also extremely concerned about the BOP memo issued simultaneously with the Book memo regarding Trulincs – the inmate email system. The new memo states that no two prisoners can write to the same person. This will undermine our access to prisoners since the CANDO Foundation communicates with over 300 prisoners. Plus we have a Guardian Angel program where we pair a Guardian Angel to anywhere from 1-10 prisoners so they have access to help that CAN-DO provides.
Even our ability to ring the bell about the BOP Book memo would not be possible if our access to prisoners is taken away.