Prison Ministry 2.0: Emailing Inmates

As the United States and its free citizens hurl through the second decade of the 21st century, most of its ample prison population is solidly rooted in the final decade of the 20th, with regards to email. While inmates in some prisons have had limited access to email since as far back as 2005, when the messages would be printed out and included with other mail for review and distribution, most are limited to old fashioned snail mail. But more recently an increasing number of prisoners have been allowed to send and receive messages through an officially-sanctioned service called CorrLinks. The Wild Hunt posed the question: how has this impacted Pagan prison ministry? CorrLinks, a web site run by Advanced Technologies Group of West Des Moines, Iowa, is an intermediary between prisoners and those on the outside with whom they wish to contact.

Federal Prisons and Religious Books

Back in 2007, the Federal Bureau of Prisons unleashed a “Standardized Chapel Library” project that limited prison libraries to an approved list of titles (including 131 approved Pagan titles). All other books, no matter what the content, were pulled from the shelves. The lists (which, despite claims to the contrary, were not drawn up by religious experts), and the pulling of titles, created a firestorm of controversy, forcing the BOP to back down. Congress then passed a new rule forbidding the BOP from pulling this stunt again in the future. Prevented from having an “approved” master list, the BOP is instead going for the next best thing.

(Pagan) News of Note

My semi-regular round-up of articles, essays, and opinions of note for discerning Pagans and Heathens.The Pagan law enforcement and emergency personnel organization Officers of Avalon is sending out a call for donations to their Avalon Cares Relief Project in order to assist those affected by the recent California wildfires that have destroyed over 1,400 homes, and evacuated nearly a million people.”As our members are Pagan professionals in the emergency services, we’ve had a lot of people on the ground in the affected areas from the start. I’m starting to get reports on what has been affected and where help might be needed. I encourage you to do the same. If you know any one who has needs as a result of this disaster, please write to us and let us know … Once again, we’re showing the world what Pagans can do.

Prisons Will Restore Purged Pagan Books

The New York Times reports that due to growing pressure and criticism, the federal Bureau of Prisons is restoring the chapel libraries that had been purged of all books not on their new “safe” lists.”The bureau will begin immediately to return to chapel libraries materials that were removed in June 2007, with the exception of any publications that have been found to be inappropriate, such as material that could be radicalizing or incite violence. The review of all materials in chapel libraries will be completed by the end of January 2008.”However, the secretly created lists won’t be going away, they have simply decided to leave the libraries intact until their lists are “complete”. While this is a step in the right direction, the essential problem with the lists is still there.”This is a positive step: it means they are not throwing the baby out with the bath water,” Mr. Moore [director of prison policy oversight at Aleph] said of keeping books on the shelves for now. “But our position is there should not be a list of what should be on the shelves, but what shouldn’t be.”There is also still no word on who was consulted to make these lists, a fact that should disturb anyone worried about bias and conflicts of interest in the list-making. Elysia Gallo, an acquisitions editor for Llewellyn Worldwide, claims that their company wasn’t consulted in the making of the list, and that they have no idea who was consulted.”I think I can safely say that publishers were not consulted.

Update: The Secret List of Approved Books

Today’s New York Times has published the leaked lists of approved books for prison chapel libraries. The lists, a part of the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ controversial “Standardized Chapel Library Project”, limits approved books in hopes of eliminating works that “discriminate, disparage, advocate violence or radicalize.””The federal Bureau of Prisons is under pressure from members of Congress and religious groups to reverse its decision to purge the shelves of prison chapel libraries of all religious books and materials that are not on the bureau’s lists of approved resources. Outrage over the bureau’s decision has come from both conservatives and liberals, who say it is inappropriate to limit inmates to a religious reading list determined by the government.”You can get a PDF of the list for Pagan books, here. Also of interest might be the Yoruba and Native American lists. From a quick read-through it seems like a list that will make Llewellyn happy, a large chunk of the selections are published by them (including several selections by Silver RavenWolf, D.J. Conway, and Ted Andrews among others).