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Pulitzer Prize-Winning Book Censored In Illinois Prisons

Attorneys filed a lawsuit Thursday on behalf of historian Heather Thompson, whose Pulitzer Prize-winning book Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy was censored by Illinois prison officials.

Attorneys from Uptown People's Law Center and Sidley Austin filed the lawsuit. It alleges that this censorship is "arbitrarily applied," as the book was sent to three different prisons and censored only at Pontiac and Logan Correctional Centers. It argues this censorship is a violation of Thompson's First Amendment right to communicate with incarcerated people, as such communication should only be restricted when there is a legitimate penological interest. The lawsuit also claims that Thompson's Fourteenth Amendment right to due process was violated because she did not receive notice of this restriction, and as such was not provided an opportunity to challenge it.

"Ms. Thompson has a Constitutional right to share her book with prisoners. This right must not be infringed upon at the whims of the Illinois Department of Corrections. What's more, prisoners should be able to read this fantastic, important book. IDOC may not like the book's content, but that is not a sufficient legal reason to censor it," said Alan Mills, executive director of Uptown People's Law Center.

"It is unconscionable that prisons forbid human beings on the inside to read any book, and I am determined to speak out on behalf of the First Amendment wherever it is being violated," said Thompson. "My book underscores the sanctity of both correctional officer and prisoner lives, and covers an important event in American history that I have the right to share with any American who wants to learn about our country's past."

The book provides a thorough history and analysis of the Attica prison uprising, detailing events beforehand, the week-long uprising, ensuing legal battles, and the event's role in perpetuating mass incarceration in the U.S.

Blood in the Water has won high praise and numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize in History, the Bancroft Prize in American History and Diplomacy, the Ridenhour Prize, the Public Information Award from the New York Bar Association, the Media for a Just Society Book Award from the National Counsel for Crime and Delinquency, and the J. Willard Hurst Award in Socio-Legal History.

The book was also included on more than a dozen "Best of 2016" lists, including the New York Times' Most Notable Books list, as well as similar lists published by Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Newsweek, the Christian Science Monitor, the Boston Globe, and others.


Via Wikipedia:

"Quite unusually, the book was featured and reviewed in three separate sections of the New York Times with one of the reviews calling it a 'gripping . . . remarkable . . . a superb work of history, 'another heralding its research, and the final one, a full-length piece in the NYT Book Review, lauding its passion and power. Reviews is other publications such as Newsweek and the Christian Science Monitor were equally glowing, with the latter calling the book 'a masterpiece.' Author Heather Ann Thompson was herself featured in the New York Times Magazine."


"[The book] provides the first complete history of the Attica Prison uprising of 1971 and details not only the events of the week-long uprising and its brutal ending, but also the protracted legal battles that persisted for decades after the event.

"Blood in the Water reflects the more than a decade of research, including information from interviews, government records, personal correspondence, and legal documents, much of which has never been made public before.

"Thompson argues that the Attica uprising and the state's response represented shifting American approaches to incarceration and policy, the reverberations of which continue to influence America's prison system.

"Film rights to the book have been optioned by TriStar Pictures."


Via the American Bar Foundation:

"In 1971 nearly 1,300 men at the notorious Attica Correctional Facility in New York took over the facility to demand humane conditions. The legal community, including that in Chicago, played a critical role in making sure that those men were protected and paved the way for their story to be told despite the state's attempt to silence them."



* Publisher Files Censorship Suit Against Illinois Department Of Corrections.

* 14 Ways To Keep Youth With Mental Health Conditions Out Of Jail.

* Mentally Ill Prisoners Win Injunction; Judge Declares IDOC's Failure To Provide Mental Health Care An "Emergency Situation."

* Challenging The Media's Distorted Images Of Incarceration.

* Lawsuit Demands Return Of Prison Debate Program.


Comments welcome.


Posted on September 13, 2018

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