South Carolina Jail Agrees to End Unconstitutional Censorship

American Civil Liberties Union Lawsuit Charged Ban on Books, Magazines and Other Periodicals was Unconstitutional FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; CHARLESTON, SC – Officials at a South Carolina jail today agreed to stop barring prisoners from accessing books, magazines, newspapers and other periodicals as part of an agreement to settle an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit. Jail officials in Berkeley County also agreed to no longer enforce a policy banning any publication bound with staples and a policy banning materials containing any level of nudity, which a jail mailroom officer said would include newspapers with lingerie advertisements or magazines containing pictures of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. “Systematically preventing prisoners from reading books, magazines or newspapers is unconstitutional, serves no penological purpose, and we are pleased to know the rights of prisoners will now be protected,” said David Shapiro, staff attorney with the ACLU National Prison Project. “Prisoners are not stripped of foundational constitutional rights simply because they are incarcerated, and there is no justification for shutting them off from the outside world.” Filed on behalf of Prison Legal News, a monthly journal on prison law distributed across the nation to prisoners, attorneys, judges, law libraries and other subscribers, the ACLU’s lawsuit charged that jail officials violated the rights of Prison Legal News under the speech, establishment and due process clauses of the First and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution by refusing to deliver copies of the journal and other magazines and books to detainees.