Every inmate deserves the right to read

I do not always endorse online petitions unless they have a specific target in mind — an online petition is a great way to tell an elected official that people are paying attention, for instance. But this Daily Kos petition is very important for another reason — it raises awareness of a serious issue that affects a segment of the population that is too often rendered invisible.

The petition is to let New York state know that every inmate in every correctional facility should enjoy the right to read. This is a right that has been under attack too often in recent years, as access to books has been denied by prisons from coast to coast.

In Texas, the Department of Criminal Justice banned 15,000 books from prisons, including books by Alice Walker, John Grisham, Jenna Bush Hager and Bob Dole. However, Texas continued to allow books by Adolf Hitler and David Duke.

In New Jersey, several prisons had banned The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, until the ACLU of New Jersey objected.

This is unacceptable. Every American should enjoy access to reading materials — no matter how poor, no matter what they did in their past. Reading helps to create better, more empathetic people. And the minute we deny prisoners' accesss to books, we're admitting that the goal of a prison is not to reform, but merely to lock people away forever. Every prisoner, no matter how heinous their crime, deserves access to books. Sign if you agree.