Contact: Macey Morales
ALA Media Relations
For Immediate Release
September 24, 2007
American Library Association President Loriene Roy releases statement on removal of religious texts from prison libraries
CHICAGO - According to the New York Times, the Standardized Chapel Library Project, an initiative of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, intends to bar access to library materials that, according to the Bureau of Prisons, ''discriminate, disparage, advocate violence or radicalize." The initiative was created in response to concerns that prisons were becoming recruiting grounds for militant Islamic and other religious groups. The policy requires chaplains to remove books from chapel libraries unless the book appears on a list of 150 approved texts. The program has resulted in the elimination of thousands of religious texts from prison chapel libraries that were purchased by the prisons, or donated by churches and religious groups.
American Library Association (ALA) President Loriene Roy called on the Bureau of Prisons to immediately halt its removal of religious texts from prison libraries and return removed books to the library shelves. "We are outraged to learn that the Bureau of Prisons is removing religious texts from prison chapel libraries based solely on whether or not the books are on a short list of ‘approved’ religious books. A government agency should not have the right to determine what religious texts are "appropriate" when our Constitution promises not only freedom of speech, but also freedom of religion. Moreover, it is illogical that the Bureau of Prisons is removing the very resources that may help incarcerated persons change their lives for the better. The idea that removing religious books will create better citizens is ridiculous, and goes against the democratic fiber of our society."
"While we understand the need for prisons to maintain a safe environment and prevent terrorism, the problems addressed by the Bureau of Prison's policy are better solved by evaluating and restricting a particular resource, instead of denying prisoners access to a broad range of books they want and need."
The American Library Association, the oldest and largest library association in the world, is an advocate for the freedom to access library materials in all U.S. libraries, including prison libraries. It supports prisoners' right to choose and read a full range of library resources for information, education, recreation, and self-improvement.