The New Jersey Department of Corrections has ended a ban on Michelle Alexander’s 2012 book “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.”
The decision came just hours after the American Civil Liberties Union demanded that access to the book be granted to inmates in the state, which is said to have the worst black-white incarceration disparity in America. The Department of Corrections said it reversed the bans at two prisons: New Jersey State Prison in Trenton and Southern State Correctional Facility in Delmont.
“The New Jim Crow chronicles how people of color are shut out of society by mass incarceration,” the DOC noted in a statement. “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.”
A spokeswoman for the department said it is now reviewing its policy on banned materials “for appropriate revisions.”
The ACLU of New Jersey reportedly received multiple complaints from incarcerated individuals regarding the ban. On Monday (Jan. 8), the group followed up with a letter to the DOC in which it asked the agency to remove it, citing a study of incarceration trends by The Sentencing Project. The ACLU said the prohibition was not only a breach of prisoners’ First Amendment rights but also a violation of Departments of Corrections policy, which allows a publication to be banned if it “incites violence” or contains information on explosives, weapons, drugs, escape plans or other security threats.
“Obviously, Michelle Alexander’s book talks about the war on drugs, but not tactics or anything that could be harmful” to the operation of prisons, ACLU senior staff attorney Alex Shalom said.