Tough-as-nails screeners act as gatekeepers for the reading materials people try to bring into prisons and jails. The quickest way to get your content banned is to make it about drugs, violence or sex. And yet, Issue 11 of News Inside features articles about these controversial topics.
You may think this isn’t a smart move for an organization dedicated to getting news into prisons and jails. But through our News Inside distribution work, we are seeing more and more screeners recognize that the time of arbitrarily rejecting content based on keywords is coming to an end. Instead, they are moving according to the rehabilitation-focused mission statements of corrections departments across the country. These statements are full of words like, “safe,” “humane” and “premium of life.”
For example, California’s Department of Corrections (DOC) purports to “facilitate the successful reintegration of the individuals in our care back to their communities equipped with the tools to be drug-free, healthy, and employable members of society by providing education, treatment, rehabilitative, and restorative justice programs, all in a safe and humane environment.”
Florida’s DOC claims to “provide a continuum of services to meet the needs of those entrusted to our care, creating a safe and professional environment with the outcome of reduced victimization, safer communities and an emphasis on the premium of life.”
And New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision has a stated mission of improving public safety “by providing a continuity of appropriate treatment services in safe and secure facilities where the needs of the incarcerated population are addressed and where individuals under its custody are successfully prepared for release and parolees under community supervision receive supportive services that facilitate the successful completion of their sentence.”
The pieces in this issue invite censors — and readers — to go deeper. For instance, unlike the salacious depictions of prison sex we see in popular culture, “Tackling a Huge Taboo: Sexual Desire Behind Bars” explores the costs of criminalizing human intimacy.
“How the Newest Federal Prison Became One of the Deadliest” shows how a combination of scar-inducing shackles, claustrophobic conditions and violence among cellmates created a safety crisis in Illinois’ Thomson Prison.
In “A Tupperware of Heroin, Or How I Ended Up in Prison,” Marshall Project reporter and author Keri Blakinger writes about the pain of drug addiction and her personal journey of redemption.
This issue also includes an essay by a former parole commissioner, a look at prison tourism, and the regular features our incarcerated readers love such as Reader to Reader, “The Peeps” and our crossword puzzle.
With Issue 11, we invite screeners to push past the hot-button toplines and align their decisions with the rehabilitative mission statements of their departments. Please prove me right!
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