State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

The State House Sound Bites Podcast is now called State of the State and is a part of PA Post, a digital-first, citizen-focused news organization to hold Pennsylvania’s government accountable to its citizens.

After pushback, DOC changes approach to books in prisons

Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Nov 2, 2018 6:25 PM

The Department of Corrections' new book policy was in place for two weeks, and is already being overhauled after a series of criticisms. (Toby Hudson/Wikimedia)


(Harrisburg) -- Since late summer, the state Department of Corrections has been rolling out enhanced security measures designed to stop the flow of drugs into prisons. One of those changes included restrictions on book gifts and donations.

But after pushback from several inmates' rights and book donation groups, the department is making changes once again.

The initial book proposal would have required donation groups to use the corrections department as an intermediary in getting reading material to prisoners. Friends and family members who wanted to send books to inmates would also have had to order through the DOC.

That approach was derided by book donation and prisoners' rights groups, who said it was too confusing for inmates and made it more difficult to get them specific books they wanted.

Keir Neuringer, with Philly-based organization Books Through Bars, said what followed was a lot of back-and-forth.

"Through deep conversation and negotiation with the DOC, Books Through Bars and Book 'Em [a Pittsburgh-based group] and probably some other organizations that I'm not aware of were able to give a lot of feedback on the policy over the last week or so," he said.

Now, the DOC is letting book donation groups communicate directly with inmates, and family and friends can buy books directly through publishers.

All the donated and purchased books will go to a third location to be searched for drugs before being delivered to inmates.

In a press release, the DOC said it arrived at its latest policy after listening to inmates, their families and friends, and relevant groups.

Neuringer noted, his group--and others--still aren't satisfied with all the DOC's security changes. But he said they're "very happy to know that this particular aspect of the restrictions has been reversed."

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