Illiterate road to prison reform


Uppity Wisconsin:

Time was when politicians who wanted to show their anti-crime bona fides would rail about how prisoners were watching color television — or any television at all.

In Wisconsin these days they don’t even want prisoners to read books.

At the state level, the Dept. of Corrections has made it as difficult as possible for a well-intentioned Wisconsin Books to Prisoners project to function, banning any used books. Since the project relies largely on donations of used books, that has crippled its ability to fulfill the many requests it gets from Wisconsin prisoners. It sends books to prisoners in other states, almost all of which allow that. That struggle continues.

Now, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke closed the county jail library on Nov. 1 and will do the same at the House of Corrections on Dec. 31. Clarke offered no reason and caught the Benedict Center and librarians who operate the program by surprise.

I wondered aloud at Uppity Wisconsin whether the officials making such illogical decisions are illiterate themselves. If they have such little common sense and/or compassion to keep prisoners from reading you still think they might have read at least one report on the benefits of educational material for offenders.

Rainbow Book co-operative (co-founded by Ald. Marsha Rummel) details:

While some prisons accept hardcover and slightly used books, the best donations are new soft covers. Prisons will not accept books that contain any handwriting, margin notes, or highlighting.

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