The directive stems from a lawsuit filed by Prison Legal News, a project of the Human Rights Defense Center, when prison officials didn't deliver four issues of the monthly journal to its inmate subscribers because the content in those issues were deemed "sexually explicit," according to court documents. The Arizona Department of Corrections is reviewing the court order with its attorneys and will be responding to Silver, public information officer Bill Lamoreaux said in a statement.
The judge's decision underscores the problem of censoring inmate reading material and the indeterminate manner in which jails and prisons prohibit or grant what incarcerated people can read, prisoner rights advocates say. In March , copies of Prison Legal News were withheld from the 97 inmate subscribers in Arizona because some articles described nonconsensual sexual contact between guards and prisoners, according to court documents. Arizona prisoners were receiving their Prison Legal News magazine without issue before March , when more interruption of delivery happened, according to court documents.
Prison Legal News notified the director of the corrections department of its unlawful censorship in a February , letter but the agency still didn't deliver uncensored magazines to prisoners, due to a mail policy that prohibits "sexually explicit material.
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There was no exception for publications that discussed sexual interactions in a factual or legal manner. He has represented Prison Legal News in past cases. That's a recipe for arbitrary or inconsistent decision making," he said. Fathi said that the judge's order is a big improvement but that adding a training on the new policy would be best practice,.
A list of banned publications by the Arizona Department of Corrections as of June include other seemingly innocuous publications, such as issues of National Geographic, Men's Health and GQ. Restricting what inmates can read is a decentralized process that can happen on the state, prison on federal level, said Nazgol Ghandnoosh, senior research analyst for The Sentencing Project.
Bans on sexually explicit material can include biology books and literary works appropriate for high school students. In her order, she wrote that Arizona Department of Corrections and the state must change the mail policy from allowing agency employees and agents to use their own discretion for determining what's banned and to establish consistency in excluding sexually explicit material. The department now has to deliver the previously censored issues of the magazine to its subscribers within 30 days of the order.
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