ACLU First Amendment Victory: Chatham County Detention Center Rescinds Unconstitutional Ban on Books and Publications

Concerns Remain Regarding Revised Publications Policy

Affiliate: ACLU of Georgia
June 6, 2019 3:00 pm

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ATLANTA – The ACLU of Georgia and the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project have received the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office’s revised policy regarding books and publications for individuals in their custody. This reverses a previous policy, which proposed one of the most egregious book bans the ACLU had seen from any prison or jail around the country.

The new policy now allows people in custody to order books and publications directly from publishers and vendors, though it caps the number of books and publications that can be in their possession at any time and prohibits newspaper delivery by mail.

“While we are pleased that the Chatham County Detention Center has rescinded its policy that prohibited people in its custody from receiving books and publications, we are concerned about the revised policy’s remaining constitutional infirmities,” said Kosha Tucker, staff attorney of the ACLU of Georgia. “The policy still deprives people in jail of opportunities to read. Limiting their ability to read is not only fundamentally at odds with the First Amendment, but also with the rehabilitative ideal.”

“While a step in the right direction, the Chatham County Detention Center’s revised policy continues to violate the rights of individuals in the Detention Center as well as people in the outside world who wish to communicate with them, thus exposing the County and Sheriff’s Office to liability,” said David C. Fathi, director of the ACLU National Prison Project.

The previous policy banned virtually all books and publications from the Chatham County Detention Center despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that the First Amendment encompasses the right of people in jail to receive books and publications. The county had only allowed detainees access to the few books on the jail’s book cart. As a result, the policy completely eliminated access to the millions of books and publications available through bookstores, publishers, and vendors.

Click here to view the ACLU letter to Chatham County Sheriff’s Office.

Click here to view the Consent injunction in Prison Legal News v DeWitt.

Click here to view the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office letter to the ACLU.

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