ILA Statement on the Removal of Books at the Danville Correctional Center

June 7, 2019

As information professionals, we are troubled by the removal of more than 200 books from the Danville Correctional Center’s library. Many of the books removed from the library had been available for years without incident. The cornerstone of the library profession is our commitment to intellectual freedom and the freedom to read, which are enshrined in the Library Bill of Rights.

Prisoners' Right to Read: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights asserts that there is a compelling public interest in the preservation of intellectual freedom for incarcerated individuals. As Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall wrote in Procunier v Martinez, 416 U.S. 428 (1974):

When the prison gates slam behind an inmate, he does not lose his human quality; his mind does not become closed to ideas; his intellect does not cease to feed on a free and open interchange of opinions; his yearning for self-respect does not end; nor is his quest for self-realization concluded.  If anything, the needs for identity and self-respect are more compelling in the dehumanizing prison environment.

The Prisoners’ Right to Read Interpretation maintains that, like all libraries, collection management in correctional libraries should be governed by written policy, mutually agreed upon by librarians and correctional agency administrators and that correctional libraries should have written procedures for addressing challenges to library materials, including a policy-based description of the disqualifying features. In the case of these removals it is important to note that the Interpretation also states that “correctional librarians and managers should select materials that reflect the demographic composition, information needs, interests, and diverse cultural values of the confined communities they serve.”

The Illinois Library Association (ILA) supports the Freedom to Learn Campaign and its mission of transforming lives by opening minds and creating opportunities for incarcerated individuals.

ILA asks that the Danville Correctional Center review its removal of the books and develop transparent and fair policies and procedures to avoid censorship and preserve the freedom to read of incarcerated individuals.

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