Tune in for the latest in Illinois prison legislation, higher ed in prison policy and reports, as well as fun events to deepen your understanding of the issues.
“Illinois Prison Removes More than 200 Books from Prison Library”
May 29, 2019, Illinois Newsroom (NPR).
“I said, ‘Are they removing all black books?’ I was totally taken aback by the list of books, and what their objection is to the books,” Ammons said. Reading about the history of slavery, post-emancipation and the black experience in the United States “is an important part of developing an African-American person that is whole in society. So, if you take that away from them, you have, in essence, denied their very nature, their humanity… you can’t tell them that they don’t deserve to know what happened to them,” she added.”
“Prisons Ban Books on Liberation and Freedom“
May 31, 2019. The Breakdown with Shaun King,
“On today’s episode of The Breakdown, Shaun King unpacks the news that Illinois has banned over 200 books in their library – books about race, justice, freedom, and liberation. Shaun needs us to take the action steps that he lays out in this episode to fight back against a decision that furthers the cycle of oppression in our system of mass incarceration.”
“Danville Correctional Center Removes ‘More than 200 Books’ from Library”
May 31, 2019. Smile Politely.
“According to this in-depth article written by Lee V. Gaines at Illinois Public Media, Danville Correctional Facility has removed “more than 200 books” from their library. Here’s a list of all the titles removed from the facility, many of which are relating to race and African-American history and culture.”
“More than 200 Book Removed from Prison”
May 31, 2019. WCIA
“It’s important to note that these books were already approved to be in the library, according to Education Justice Project leaders. Almost all of the books were about race. There were also some about dealing with a family member who’s in prison, as well as some about gender and sexuality. “
“Two Hundred Library Books Scrapped from Illinois Prison”
June 3, 2019. WBEZ Chicago.
“In late January, staff at the Danville Correctional Center removed about 200 books from a prison library and returned them to the University of Illinois.”
“The Enduring Battle over Access to Educational Materials for Inmates”
June 5, 2019. WNYC New York
“An organization called the Education Justice Project (EJP) provides college-level courses to inmates at the Danville Correctional Center in Central Illinois. As part of their program, the EJP had built up a library of over 4,000 books in the Danville prison. Each of those books went through a review process to get there.
The program had been running smoothly until last fall, when a number of books were unexpectedly rejected by the Illinois Department of Corrections. Then, early this year, the EJP hit another snag, when the Danville Prison suspended the program and took 202 books out of its library.”
“The fact that these removed books deal primarily with contemporary racial issues is, unfortunately, not a surprise to us,” said James Tager, Deputy Director of Free Expression Research and Policy. “In our work pushing back against undue restrictions on prisoners’ right to read, we have consistently noted that books dealing with race—or even books written by African-American authors—are significantly more likely to fall afoul of these censorship strictures. We are troubled by these removals, and we urge the officials at Danville Correctional Center to re-examine and to reverse their decision.”
“‘It’s Heartbreaking’: Authors Criticize the Removal of 200 Books from an Illinois Prison Library”
June 6, 2019. Illinois Newsroom (NPR)
“Several authors and editors of books that were removed from the EJP library agreed to speak to Illinois Newsroom. “
“ILA Statement on the Removal of Books from Danville Correctional Center,” June 7, 2019. Illinois Library Association
“The Illinois Library Association (ILA) supports the Freedom to Learn Campaign and its mission of transforming lives by opening minds and creating opportunities for incarcerated individuals.
ILA asks that the Danville Correctional Center review its removal of the books and develop transparent and fair policies and procedures to avoid censorship and preserve the freedom to read of incarcerated individuals.”
“Advocates Throw the Book at Danville Prison,” June 9, 2019. News-Gazette.
“”Our students actually saw it happening,” Clingan said. “They saw Internal Affairs guards in our room kind of going through the shelves and tossing books in boxes.”
“Danville Prison Removes Books,” June 10, 2019. The 21st, NPR.
“Johnny Page studied Philosophy, History and “everything he could.” He describes the library as a “fortress of solitude,” where people could escape from daily prison life.”
“More than 200 Books Banned, Removed from Danville Prison,” June 14, 2019. Fox News Illinois.
“The books had something in common – they were overwhelmingly about black history and the black experience,” said Rebecca Ginsburg, director of the award-winning program at the prison.
“Give the Books Back to the Prisoners,” June 19, 2019. Letter to the Editor, by Toni Preckwinkle.
“I was saddened to learn from a recent story regarding the staff at Danville Prison, here in Illinois, removed hundreds of books from the prison library – a majority, oddly enough, about race. This was clearly misguided and will undermine valuable prison education programs. The news also hit me hard for a very personal reason.”
“Lawmakers to Question Officials About Removing Hundreds of Books from a Prison Library,” June 26, 2019. Illinois Public Media
“State Rep. Carol Ammons said she organized a legislative hearing on the issue after Illinois Newsroom broke the story of the book removal late last month. Ammons, an Urbana Democrat, said lawmakers have asked her why it happened.
“But I can’t answer it because we don’t have an official answer from the (Illinois Department of Corrections) at this time,” Ammons said.”
Statement from University of Chicago faculty (affiliates of Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture and the Pozen Family Center for Human Rights). June 28, 2019.
“We are especially disturbed by the practice of book banning, which denies incarcerated people the opportunity to access many of the same texts which we consider essential in our own teaching. These include writings by outstanding thinkers such as Cornel West, Jacqueline Woodson, Booker T. Washington, Walter Mosley, and Beth Richie, who explore profound questions and fundamental human experiences. This practice violates cherished ideals of the right to knowledge and freedom of expression.”
“Returned Books Have Been Returned to the Danville Correctional Center,” Smile Politely. July 9, 2019.
“Members of the EJP took action to see that the titles were returned, including testifying at a Subject Matter Hearing on censorship in prisons.
They announced today that all of the titles have been returned to the library.”
“Danville Prison Books Returned to Shelves,” WAND TV, July 9, 2019
“On Monday, the Illinois Department of Corrections assured Ginsburg the books would all be returned on the shelves. However, Ginsburg says the original question still remains: Why were they removed to begin with?”
Excerpt from Statement from the Association of Black Sociologists, July 11, 2019
“On behalf of the members of the Association of Black Sociologists, I
write in full endorsement of the Freedom to Learn Campaign. We fully
support the need for and implementation of key legislation and
administrative changes for the betterment of incarcerated people.”
“House Committee Hear Testimony on Alleged Book Censorship at. Danville Correctional Center,” Prairie State Wire, July 10, 2019.
“Alan Mills, the executive director of Uptown People’s Law Center, said the actions of Danville staff could be against the law.”
“Books Back Where They Belong,” WCIA, July 10, 2019
“IDOC released the following statement in response:
The Illinois Department of Corrections values its partnership with the University of Illinois and the many volunteers who demonstrate immeasurable dedication to the Education Justice Project. In June, all but four of the original books were returned by EJP, as well as 50 additional publications. All books have been reviewed, approved, and placed back on the shelves. IDOC acknowledges the situation should have been handled differently. As a result, we are hiring a volunteer coordinator, reviewing our publication review policy, and instituting an appeal process for disapproved publications.”
“Banning Books in Prison is Bad Policy,” Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights, July 18, 2019
“Without sound policies and practices regarding access to education in prison, we anticipate that restrictions to educational materials will continue to plague prisons in Illinois, which may threaten important reform efforts like the “Civics in Prison” bill (HB 2541”
“Books Returned to Prison’s Library Shelves,” News Gazette, July 26, 2019
“Our community really did come behind us in a very humbling and encouraging way,” [Ginsburg] said. “Many of them were ordinary Urbana-Champaign residents who felt outraged by this.”
“Censorship in Prison Libraries: Danville and Beyond,” Illinois Library Association, July 29, 2019
“The restriction of library materials that may provoke critical thinking on certain topics or offer critiques of the criminal justice system is not an experience unique to Danville Correctional Center. Earlier this year, the Arizona Department of Corrections banned Chokehold: Policing Black Men by Paul Butler from all Arizona correctional centers. This ban was enacted on the basis that the contents of Butler’s book—an award-winning exploration of prevailing racism in America’s criminal justice system—are “detrimental to the safe, secure, and orderly operation” of Arizona prisons.”
“‘It’s the Racial Stuff.’ Illinois prison banned, removed books on black history and empowerment from inmate education program,” Chicago Tribune, Aug 15, 2019
“Hundreds of pages of records released by the Illinois Department of Corrections in response to Freedom of Information Act requests paint the clearest picture yet of the origins of the dispute between IDOC and the Education Justice Project. …internal IDOC emails and other documents show that the program was swiftly suspended and the books removed after the race-related themes of the some of the content were flagged.”
“The Reason Why Hundreds of Books Were Removed from and Illinois Prison Library,” Illinois Public Media, August 15, 2019.
“In an emailed statement, Hess, an IDOC spokesperson, wrote that, “the Department is developing and implementing the necessary system-wide policy changes to ensure similar situations do not occur in the future” — referring to the removal of the EJP books. “
“‘It’s Racial’: Illinois Prison Banned Books on History and Empowerment from Inmate Program,” The Root, August 16, 2019.
“According to Illinois correction records the Tribune received under a Freedom of Information Act request, the dispute between the Illinois Department of Corrections and the Education Justice Project run under the auspices of the University of Illinois went back months.”
“Illinois Prison Banned Books on Black History and Empowerment from Inmate Program,” Black American Web, August 2019.
“The Chicago Tribune reported that back in November 2018, the EJP gave the Danville Correctional Center that semester’s books and course materials. But a corrections lieutenant told the EJP that there was a problem with the materials – they were too “racial.””
“Illinois Prison Banned ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ for Being ‘Divisive’,” Patheos, August 19, 2019.
“Do you know what is divisive? Slavery is divisive. Jim Crow is divisive. Racial discrimination and racial disparities in sentencing is divisive. Maybe if we as a society stopped doing divisive things, we wouldn’t have to worry about prison inmates learning about all the divisive things we’re doing. “
“Commentary: If We Ban Books for Tackling ‘Racial Issues,’ What Will We Have Left?” Chicago Tribune, August 20, 2019.
“So at the end of the day, I guess I understand why prison officials banned my book and so much other work about racial inequality and segregation. Rather than reaffirming white Americans’ racialized self-esteem, the banned books instead address white Americans’ key role in creating and perpetuating racial inequality and racial brutality. “
“Ban-Ville” Correctional Center,” South Side Weekly, August 20, 2019
“In what world can officers claim with a straight face that a children’s book about a young girl who visits her father in prison “advocates or encourages violence, hatred, or group disruption” or “encourages or instructs in the commission of criminal activity”?”
“Illinois Prison Bans Educational Program and 200 Books due to ‘Racial Content,’ including ‘Black Power, Freedom, and Justice,” Atlanta Black Star, August 21, 2019.
“The documents ultimately showed that prison officials suspended the program and removed books with ‘racially motivated cartoons’ and ‘other items of concern,’ including a Movement for Black Lives pamphlet on ‘Black Power, Freedom & Justice,'”
“The Awesome Power of the Written Word,” The Chicago Crusader, August 22, 2019.
“3 out of every 4 inmates in Illinois prisons are Black, yet an Illinois prison banned an inmate education program from using books discussing Black history or empowerment due to their “racial” content”
“IDOC to Implement New Policy to Prevent Arbitrary Censorship of Books,” IL Public Media, Sept 6, 2019
“The Illinois Department of Corrections will implement a new publication review policy in October. The change comes after staff at the Danville Correctional Center removed more than 200 books from a college-in-prison program’s library at the facility earlier this year. “