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.