Kosha Tucker is a staff attorney with ACLU Georgia. ‘It’s a First Amendment right to have access to books when you’re in prison and you’re in jail,’ she says. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

ACLU says new book policy at Chatham jail violates inmates’ rights

A new policy regarding books and other publications in the Chatham County Detention Center is unconstitutional, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia.

The policy, implemented in May, limits the number of books per inmate to four, restricts newspaper access to digital access only and bans sexually explicit material. In a June 6 press release, the ACLU of Georgia called the latter ban “impermissibly vague.”

Citing Supreme Court precedent, the ACLU said the three limitations were unconstitutional.

“The policy still deprives people in jail of opportunities to read,” said ACLU of Georgia attorney Kosha Tucker. “Limiting their ability to read is not only fundamentally at odds with the First Amendment but also with the rehabilitative ideal.”

Chatham County Sheriff John T. Wilcher declined comment.

In March, the jail discontinued the book program and prohibited inmates from receiving books from outside the jail.

The ACLU of Georgia also contested that policy.

Previous studies show a correlation between literacy and lower recidivism rates.

“Low literacy and incarceration go hand in hand,” Andrea Shelton, Department of Corrections Board Member for the Fifth District, said previously to the AJC.

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