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Tell Me What You Read; I Will Tell You What You Are : Reading and education in U.S. Penal History

Author: Megan Sweeney
Edition/Format: Chapter Chapter : English
Summary:
This chapter focuses on the majority opinion in Beard v. Banks, which constructs reading as a privilege that best serves the interests of the penal system when it is denied to uncooperative prisoners. In his concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas argues that the current ruling is justified because it is consistent with eighteenth-century Pennsylvania punishment practices, which isolated prisoners from the outside world by allowing no reading materials except the Bible and by denying prisoners contact with their families. The majority opinion dismisses legal cases that have found increased contact with the world conducive to rehabilitation, arguing that such findings are moot when “dealing with especially difficult prisoners.” Although the Pennsylvania prison deputy describes the policy as designed to make prisoners “productive citizen[s],” the Court's majority opinion thus conveys little faith in the possibility that these prisoners may actually become productive citizens or that reading may facilitate such a process.  Read more...
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Details

All Authors / Contributors: Megan Sweeney
ISBN: 9780807833520; 9781469604367
Publication:Sweeney, Megan, author; Reading Is My Window : Books and the Art of Reading in Women's Prisons; University of North Carolina Press
Language Note: English
Unique Identifier: 5619183607
Awards:
Other Titles: Chapter One

Abstract:

This chapter focuses on the majority opinion in Beard v. Banks, which constructs reading as a privilege that best serves the interests of the penal system when it is denied to uncooperative prisoners. In his concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas argues that the current ruling is justified because it is consistent with eighteenth-century Pennsylvania punishment practices, which isolated prisoners from the outside world by allowing no reading materials except the Bible and by denying prisoners contact with their families. The majority opinion dismisses legal cases that have found increased contact with the world conducive to rehabilitation, arguing that such findings are moot when “dealing with especially difficult prisoners.” Although the Pennsylvania prison deputy describes the policy as designed to make prisoners “productive citizen[s],” the Court's majority opinion thus conveys little faith in the possibility that these prisoners may actually become productive citizens or that reading may facilitate such a process.

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