Friday, May 25, 2007

Raided Rooms

Soldiers in the doorway
with orders to search,
a father goes hoarse,
asking, "What do you want?"

This face or that? Each wonders who
will be the target of this raid,
"What did we do?" You!
And You! And You! Move!

The young, wide-open eyes
see their elders disappear
down stairs and hallways,
gone for "Processing."

The neighbors' windows flicker
blue from the TV.
No one watches the street,
no one wants to feel the heat

approaching block by block,
the creeping onslaught of apocalypse.
Some people sleep while others are removed.
"Just pray it isn't" you or you or you.

The TV talks of Progress in the War;
the faceless face of some elected fool
assures the viewers, "You are on God's side."
The ones who were not taken turn away.

Take me, Take Me to meet
the soldiers who don't blink black tears
as they take hooded prisoners
down rubble-littered streets.

Dan's 2-cent's worth: What America does abroad, it does and will do more of at Home. Arrests may take place 7000 miles away today and next door tomorrow.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

"Don't do the Crime if you can't do the Time!"

That's easy for Baretta to say, but those without a TV series may see things differently. Take A.C., for example:

"Please send me a book on astro-projection. If I could make contact with this other person I might be able to stop her from ruining my life. Please hurry, send the book."
Perhaps we should send Please Understand Me, or scare up a copy of I'm Okay, You're Okay, but we don't want to disappoint. Astral Projection may very well get the message across, though the real Ms. X might give his astral body a welcome he didn't have in mind. You know what they say about dropping in, unannounced.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Don't tell them about the...D.O.G.S!!!!!!

Check your freedoms at the door, folks, it's...Jail Time!

Shirley Glennor wrote a piece on prison censorship back in Feb 2007. It touched on things we are seeing in our own program and even gets to our own "desire to please" by selecting material that won't offend the correction's staff:

Censorship in prison libraries is on the rise, the extent varying from state to state and among individual institutions within the same state....Below are some of the kinds of challenges that the librarians reported:

  • No graphic novels because some show skimpily dressed women and it may affect sex treatment programs.
  • No hardback books, because it is easy to hide contraband in spine of these books
  • No ethnic materials or programs because it means they would have to provide for every ethnic group that demands materials.
  • Mail room has a 20 page list of materials that are not allowed.
  • No homegrown newspapers because it reports the crimes in the neighborhood from which the inmates come and they are afraid of gang retaliation.
  • They have faith-based programs and want materials that support those programs.
  • They tear out sections of magazines that have what they consider inappropriate before sending them to the library or to the inmates who have subscriptions.
  • [Our jails program has a hard time obtaining Spanish-language fotonovellas with racy covers, peppy crime plots and steamy sex scenes. This did not use to be a problem, but certain vendors are reluctant to carry them.]

Many of the censorship challenges are arbitrary, based on the bias or punitive attitude of individual security officers or other personnel within the institution. Some examples of these are:

  • A prison psychologist advocated removal of books on crime because she felt books on true crime impeded her attempts to treat offenders.
  • A corrections officer wanted books about dogs removed because the institution had a canine unit and he feels it is not good for the inmates to know anything about dogs.
  • The administration in one institution did not want a National Geographic video about Nelson Mandela to be shown because it had a shot of an African child without clothes.
  • Some officers argued about having books on how to start businesses because they feel it is a teaching tool for inmates' scams.
Librarians cope with these challenges in a variety of ways. Some form selection committees comprising education, and security staff, and this helps to reduce the number of challenges. (The cynical part of me says at least it gets some of the security staff to read some literature). Others have used the Library Bill of Rights, pointing out that the materials in question in no way compromise security....

Dan's 2-cents: Erasing Privacy from the Books!

One is always tempted to react to the ignorance or stubbornness of people who censor library materials. It is true that the dumbing down and toughening up of our society allows the least enlightened to set the tone and make the rules.

However, any discussion of censorship in jails and prisons must take into account the Authorities far more powerful than corrections staff. These well-funded, highly-educated figures are playing fast and loose with our freedoms. Some of them are sitting on the Supreme Court, but more on that later.

Just as a private organization like the Boy Scouts can discriminate against gay young people in its selection policy, privatized jails and prisons can discriminate in their book selection policies or spend their "faith-based funds" without the guidelines of an equal access policy essential to public librarianship.

There have been court cases initiated by inmates who complained their religions were not being served. This type of discrimination has not been permitted by courts. However, the notion of uncensored, equal-access book selection seems to be under "Court" Radar.

Censorship may be part of a larger attack on an individual's right to privacy.

Several Supreme Court Justices have asserted that the U.S. Constitution guarantees "No Right to Privacy" for individual citizens. While these justices deride a concept American Citizens hold dear, they gleefully uphold the private affliliations of "corporations" or "institutions" and heap privileges upon them. Conveniently for them, public and private interests and rights are becoming indistinguishable under the guise of "privatization." In the privatized sphere, individuals seem to be losing rights while the merged interests of corporations--with the legal status individuals once enjoyed--receive greater rights to discriminate and withhold funding.

Ordinary people can point out this travesty of justice until they are blue in the face, but no one listens. Okay, who else has noticed? Why does Sandra Day O'Connor, retired from the court, now warn us that our state is adopting fascism? Is it from INSIDE KNOWLEDGE?

Individuals such as Thomas Jefferson knew what individual rights to privacy were. Jefferson championed these rights in the Bill of Rights that guaranteed freedom of speech and security in one's papers. The framers considered their solitary, private selves as models for the ordinary citizen. The Enlightenment to which Jefferson subscribed championed a free mind engaged in free inquiry, regardless of one's station.

We are the same old individuals we always were and deserve the same rights. Regardless of one's criminal status, the reading and writing of inmates does not jeopardize security. The "mind" is a barrier that can never be breached, so why does the government think it controls the Minds of Inmates and what does it gain from the pretense?

If our private papers happen to be published materials--the books we CHOOSE TO READ in the pursuit of "life, liberty and happiness--how can it be legal for those materials to be confiscated and removed? We can laugh at the guy who's scared of showing dogs or the human body to inmates, but we cannot laugh at the Supreme Court and Executive Branch so interested in erasing privacy from the books.

Reference: Glennor, S. (2007) retrieved on May 7, 2007 from