“SLAVERY BY Another Name,” a book by Wall Street Journal senior correspondent Douglas A. Blackmon, won a 2009 Pulitzer Prize for its historical account of the exploitation of African American prisoners in Southern states from the late 19th century until World War II. But the state of Alabama seems to regard the book as not so much a great work of nonfiction as a potential security threat.
Officials with the Alabama Department of Corrections barred Mark Melvin, an inmate in its Kilby Correctional Facility, from acquiring the book. They cited Paragraph (V)(G)(4)(a) of Alabama Department of Corrections Regulation Number 448, which states that a piece of incoming mail or other material “may be determined to be a threat to the security of the institution” if it could “reasonably be considered” to be “an attempt to incite violence based on race, religion, sex, creed or nationality.”
Mr. Melvin, through his lawyers at Alabama’s Equal Justice Initiative, sued corrections officials last month in federal court, claiming the officials engaged in “censorship” in violation of his First Amendment rights. “Defendants’ decision to ban the book was based on their desire to restrict access to information about historical racism in the Southern United States and is not reasonably related to a legitimate penological purpose,” the complaints asserted.