Tag: prison system

Mercy in Prison Isn’t Truly Just

“There is a strength, a power even, in understanding brokenness, because embracing our brokenness creates a need and desire for mercy, and perhaps a corresponding need to show mercy. When you experience mercy, you learn things that are hard to learn otherwise. You see things you can’t otherwise see; you hear things you can’t otherwise hear. You begin to recognize the humanity that resides in each of us.” – Goodreads

 

Image Via Amazon

 

One of the most powerful books, Just Mercy, reached theaters on Christmas Day. While we find ourselves diving deep into the prison systems, those incarcerated are unable to share the same thrills. Among many other books, Just Mercy has been banned from some prisons as books, like this one can be, under the arbitrary rules that exclude books on civil rights.

 

 

Just Mercytells the story of Walter McMillian, who was released from Alabama’s death row in 1993 after serving six years for a murder he did not commit.” Due to the content of the book, Just Mercy is a threat to security, as many that are incarcerated can involve an uproar. This is why courts have approved to keep books that pose any threat out of prison walls. Prison systems, usually, ban books that are written by black authors, like that of James Baldwin, Malcolm X, Alex Haley, Toni Morrison, and Michelle Alexander.

 

Image Via The New York Times

 

America’s jails and prisons are prone to censor any vital information that is related to any civil or human rights. This may come as no surprise, but “the banned books lists in many states – including Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Ohio, South Carolina, and Washington – do not include reasons for barring each title.”  Kansas and North Carolina were among the state prison systems that banned Just Mercy, but lifted the ban after objections were made.

 

 

Many of the prison systems have been criticized for the lack of rehabilitation to prepare them for the real world. They have become so focused on censoring everything from the outside, that they forget about providing them with tools on how to live outside of the prison walls.

 

Featured Image Via The New York Times

 


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Broaden Your Mind With This Week’s Non-Fiction Picks

Each week, Bookstr scans bestseller lists across the Internet to learn what people are reading, buying, gifting, and talking about most — just so we can ensure consistent, high-quality recommendations. This week’s nonfiction picks center around the theme of current best-sellers, showcasing what nonfiction books are the biggest hits with audiences! Pick these up to see what everyone is talking about!

 

5. The Collected Schizophrenias by Esme Weijun Wang

 

A swirling collection of color coming together

Image via Amazon

The Collected Schizophrenias by Esme Weijun Wang is a collection of thirteen essays that offer a new vocabulary and discussion topics regarding the perils of mental illness. The author, Wang, struggles with schizophrenia herself and offers light of what it’s like to grapple with one’s own mental sickness. In the book, Wang balances her own personal struggles with carefully crafted research, creating a unique experiences that will speak to anyone fascinated by the topic or fighting their own battles mentally.

 

4. The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee by David Treuer 

 

An American flag on the backdrop of a black background

Image via Amazon

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee by David Treuer examines America’s complicated and often disgraceful history with the Battle of Wounded Knee, the massacre of Native Americans by American troops in 1890. The author, a Native American who grew up on a reservation, examines Native American’s history with Wounded Knee and all the attempts to destroy their culture throughout the years. In doing so, David Treur finds that their culture has, while no thrived, transformed and created a unifying sense of identity culture that has resisted being wiped and in some ways, grown stronger. This is a profound read that showcases a people’s resistance and holding onto their culture through the turbulent years.

 

3. Maid by Stephanie Land

 

A pair of maid gloves on the white background

Image via Amazon

Maid by Stephanie Land turned to housekeeping to meet ends meet after  an unplanned pregnancy. There, she saw how mistreated the housework community was and began to write stories online sharing her experiences. Stories of living on foot stamps, uncaring government employees who refused maids assistance, and overworked, underpaid Americans who were struggling to meet ends meet. This book now explores that lifestyle, the lifestyle of what it’s really like to be a maid and shares their stories with the world. This book gives a voice to those who have none as it follows Stephanie’s journey and many others like her.

 

2. Make Scream, Make it burn by Leslie Jamison

 

A bunch of neon letters saying 'Make It Scream Make it burn'

Image Via Amazon

Make It Scream, Make It Burn by Leslie Jamison is another collection of essays, each offering varied, different, and thought provoking content. Among the essays featured is one about the loneliest whale in the world, the landscape of the Sri Lanken War, becoming a stepmother, and journey through Las Vegas in a. desperate search for the American Dream. Each essay is full of nuance and passion, each different yet related under a constant banner beautiful writing and connecting thematically. Jamison’s voice is impossible to resist and with emotional, intellectual power this is a must read.

 

1. Charged by Emily Bazelon

 

An African-American man stands at a prison fence
Image via Amazon

Charged by Emily Bazelon is an examination of the broken American prison system. It examines the power prosecutors truly have, who control a case and are more liable to swing the jury over to their side in order to ‘win’ rather than balancing a fair system. They decide who lives and goes free, who lives and who dies, with all the biases that come with their decisions. This book follows two young people caught in the unfair justice system: Kevin, a twenty year old charged with a serious violent felony and Noura, a teenage girl indicted for murdering her own mother. The author follows their cases in detail, showing why criminal cases go wrong and showcaseing how the system can be reformed.

 

 

Featured Image Via Amazon

An incarcerated man reads - as is his right

U.S. Prisons Ban Books Critical of Criminal Justice System

For a country intent on the loosest possible definitions of free speech, one of our most marginalized populations is subject to an insidious degree of censorship.

The United States—the world leader in incarceration, imprisoning 2.2 million at this very moment—is fixated on free speech, but we favor the adjective over the verb. Prisons throughout the country are banning books that disagree with the racial disparity in U.S. prisons, the prison-industrial complex, and other incisive critiques of mass incarceration. And some are banning books altogether: one Georgia jail recently imposed a ban on all books, excluding only religious texts. Louisiana has banned non-Christian religious material, a decision that evidently violates the Constitutional provisions for religious freedom. Even the more liberal state of Washington forbade outsiders to make charitable book donations to prisons. Although the Washington Department of Corrections has rolled back the ban to accept donations from a small, specified list of charities, this compromise hardly changes the fact that WDOC only changed the rule because it couldn’t get away with it.

 

Books banned in Texas prisons, exceeding 15,000 total | Image Via Washington Post

 

Recently, the Arizona Department of Corrections has banned Chokehold, a non-fiction work exploring the role of race within the criminal justice system. Written by a former prosecutor, the book dispenses advice for black men and details the rights people can use to protect themselves (for example, during searches). While this may be unjust, it’s not unprecedented: North Carolina and Florida have banned The New Jim Crowanother book dedicated to exposing racism’s inextricable link to mass incarceration.

This past week, the American Civil Liberties Union formally addressed the issue, requesting that Arizona overturn this ban. An excerpt from the letter explains the hypocrisy inherent in the ban:

The very people who experience extreme racial disparity in incarceration cannot be prohibited from reading a book whose purpose is to examine and educate about that disparity. Improving understanding of policing, incarceration, and racial bias is especially critical given Arizona’s stark racial disparities and overall high rates of incarceration.

Advocates have pointed out the practical issues with these bans, those that transcend moral or ethical arguments. There is no budgetary component to book-donation charities, meaning that there are no financial consequences for allowing these charities to stock prison libraries. It’s also likely that incarcerated people will not spend their entire lives in prison. Given that the average prison sentence is three years, state departments of correction should assume that most of these people will return to society. Shouldn’t we want them to be emotionally healthy when they do? Shouldn’t we want them to be educated?

Under the First Amendment, only books which would actively endanger the prison or the people in it are eligible for bans. This clause would, for example, bar a non-fiction work that might detail how to make explosives or weaponry. The intent is purely physical rather than psychological; ostensibly, there is no danger to society in allowing prisoners to understand the judicial system that keeps them confined. But there is a danger to the system that imprisons them.

 

 

 

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