After its publication in 2010, Michelle Alexander’s ‘The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness’ was met with critical acclaim. The book contends that the American criminal justice system follows slavery and the Jim Crow laws as “a contemporary system of racial control.” The bestseller opened millions of eyes to what Black people are up against when it comes to mass incarceration. It would seem that if anybody would need to read such a text, it would be the inmates who are directly affected by the prison system. However, a couple of prisons in New Jersey don’t feel this way, proven by the fact that ‘The New Jim Crow’ appears on the banned reading list, along with magazines like The Source and XXL.
The prisons in question are New Jersey State Prison in Trenton and Southern State Correctional Facility in Delmont. According to The Guardian:
Under New Jersey regulations, inmates are not allowed to receive publications that threaten prison safety, incite violence or feature details of activities such as bomb-making and lock-picking. Magazines appealing to a “prurient interest in sex” are also barred.
It is unknown how ‘The New Jim Crow’ violated these guidelines. In response, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has called for the ban to be lifted since it violates inmates’ First Amendment rights. A letter to NJ corrections commissioner Gary Lanigan has been drafted, stating that the ban of the book is especially troubling considering the state of New Jersey had the widest disparity between White and Black incarceration rates. “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,” wrote ACLU staff attorney Tess Borden.
We’ll see where this goes from here.