S.C. Jail Can’t Promote Bible, Lawsuit Says

A South Carolina jail’s policy barring prisoner access to all books, magazines and newspapers except for the Bible should be ruled unconstitutional, according to a lawsuit.

Publishers of Prison Legal News filed a lawsuit in federal court Oct. 6 against Berkeley County Jail in Moncks Corner, S.C. In 2008, the publishers tried to send magazines, letters and self-help books about prison life to inmates. The products were sent back, and a jail official wrote an e-mail referencing the jail’s policy of only allowing the Bible as reading material for prisoners.

The lawsuit, Prison Legal News v. Berkeley County Sheriff, charges that local officials are violating the Constitution.

“This is nothing less than unjustified censorship,” said David Shapiro, staff attorney with the ACLU National Prison Project, who filed the lawsuit. “There is no legitimate justification for denying detainees access to periodicals and, in the process, shutting them off from the outside world in draconian ways.”

The jail does not have a library, and officials confirmed that the only reading materials its 450 inmates have are paperback Bibles.