Yesterday, New Jersey state prisons have ended a ban that prevented inmates from reading a highly praised book that links racial discrimination and mass incarceration.
Michelle Alexander’s 2012 book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness had been off limits to inmates as a matter of policy at New Jersey State Prison in Trenton and Southern State Correctional Facility in Delmont, according to documents provided in response to a public records request from the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
The state Department of Corrections lifted the ban after the ACLU chapter on Monday demanded that access to the book be granted to inmates in the state, which the group said has the worst U.S. black-white incarceration disparity.
“The New Jim Crow chronicles how people of color are shut out of society by mass incarceration,” the letter states. “That the very prisoners who experience the worst racial disparity in incarceration in the country should be prohibited from reading a book whose precise purpose is to examine and educate about that disparity adds insult to injury.”
The Department of Corrections responded Monday afternoon by lifting the ban on the book at all state institutions, and said it would review the department’s policy on prohibiting books. The department noted in a statement that The New Jim Crow has been used a teaching tool in a college-level course for inmates.