Federal Prison Bureau Drops Religious Book Purge

The Federal Bureau of Prisons will return most of the religious books yanked from prison chapel libraries earlier this year after pressure from Congress, clergy and advocacy groups.

In the spring, the bureau ordered the removal of all reading materials from prison chapel libraries that were not included on an agency-created list of acceptable literature. After The New York Times and other media reported on the purge, three prisoners lodged a lawsuit against the policy and critics urged the bureau to rescind it.

The Times said in late September that the bureau would return most of the materials to the libraries, but would continue working on ways to exclude reading materials that could incite violence.

“The bureau will begin immediately to return to chapel libraries materials that were removed in June 2007, with the exception of any publications that have been found to be inappropriate, such as material that could be radicalizing or incite violence,” Judi Simon Garrett, a bureau spokeswoman said in an e-mail message. “The review of all materials in chapel libraries will be completed by the end of January 2008.”

The list of acceptable religious books was prompted by a 2004 Department of Justice report that suggested religious books could spark violence. Anonymous religious experts were recruited to assist with the project.