Thanks to our community partner Faith 4 Justice & Malaprops Books!
We are delighted to be partnering with Faith4Justice Asheville to get copies of the ground-breaking book The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander into NC prisons, where it had previously been banned.
Local bookstore Malaprops helped source the book by offering copies for customers to purchase at a discounted price for donation. We picked up the first eight copies of the book yesterday, and will begin sending them out immediately!
Banned no more!
Until very recently The New Jim Crow was on the NC Department of Public Safety's banned book list.
The banning of this book, which does not encourage violence in any way, was clearly politically motivated. Because its subject matter traces the racialized nature of mass incarceration and tracks the historic growth of this institution over the last 40 years, DPS viewed incarcerated people's awareness of these dynamics and facts as a threat to its authority.
In 2013 anarchists who run one of the many books-to-prisons programs in the country challenged this policy and successfully got the book removed from the ban list. However, as the book's popularity grew DPS cracked down and banned it once again in 2015. It stayed on the banned book list until this January, when the ACLU's legal team got involved.
Celebrate and agitate!
Banning books is just one way that prisons control the flow of information into and out of them; on a daily basis the communications and activities of incarcerated people are monitored and restricted in ways that make the most basic of interactions with friends and family difficult and painful--to say nothing of repression of political organizing on the inside.
So getting a previously-banned book into a correctional facility feels like a big win: an assertion of the humanity and agency of incarcerated people to read and study what they want, especially when it's a text that speaks so directly to the structural forces behind their lived experiences.
Of course, we know there's way more work to be done. The real goal is not getting books into prisons, but getting people out of them! Here are some things you can do right now to support incarcerated people:
- Become a pen pal! Email firstname.lastname@example.org to request more info on how to get started!
- Support prisoner organizing! Follow the #endprisonslavery hashtag and visit http://fighttoxicprisons.wordpress.com/
- Look for a books to prisons program near you to help out at or donate to, or start one if it doesn't already exist in your town!