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Connecticut’s Prison Libraries are Suddenly the Center of Attention

| December 5, 2010

Last week, Steven Hayes was convicted of murdering three women in a Connecticut home invasion.  Hayes’s case sparked national interest earlier this year when his defense attorneys filed a motion seeking to suppress the list of books that Hayes, a former convict, had checked out of the prison library.  The attorneys argued that the list would be prejudicial because it contained books that were “criminally malevolent in the extreme.

The books that are stocked in prison libraries can sometimes be an important part of the rehabilitation and re-entry process.  In fact, as this article notes, libraries can help “inmates to learn more about their addictions, develop their skills and overcome trials in their lives.”  Prison Fellowship has taken a special interest in ensuring that religious texts are available in prison libraries.  It is worth asking, however, whether a distinction ought to be drawn between books that society views as instrumental to re-entry and books that are “criminally malevolent in the extreme.”  It is also important to realize that the question raises sensitive First Amendment issues.  Connecticut Senator John Kissel, a Republican from Enfield, has taken a particular interest in the topic, and it will be interesting to see what his investigation concludes.

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VIBRANT P. REDDY is Senior Fellow for criminal justice issues at the Charles Koch Institute. Previously, Reddy was the Senior Policy Analyst for both Right on Crime and the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Effective Justice. He has authored several reports on criminal justice policy and is a frequent speaker and media commentator on the topic. Reddy has worked as a research assistant at The Cato Institute, as a law clerk to the Honorable Gina M. Benavides of the Thirteenth Court of Appeals of Texas, and as an attorney in private practice, focusing on trial and appellate litigation. Reddy graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a B.A. in Plan II Honors, Economics, and History, and he earned his law degree at the Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law in Dallas. He is a member of the State Bar of Texas and of the State Bar’s Appellate Section and Criminal Justice Section.

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