ACLU sues jail over Bible policy

MONCKS CORNER, SC (WCSC) - According to the American Civil Liberties Union, once inmates are booked into the Berkeley County jail there is only one book they can get access to ­‑‑‑ the bible.

Prison Legal News is a magazine that inmates at the Berkeley County Detention Center used to have access to, but not anymore.

"The policy is, the only reading material that anyone in the jail gets to have is a soft-backed bible," said ACLU staff attorney Susan Dunn.

Dunn and the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of Prison Legal News which says the jail is infringing upon the inmate's civil rights.

"Access to information is so important to our democracy," Dunn said. "And just because you're in jail for a short period of time doesn't mean you stop needing to read or need to know what is going on in the community."

Dunn says that cutting inmates off from the outside is only going to do them and others more harm if they are released from jail. Others in the community seem to agree.

"Even though they may have messed up, that doesn't give them a right to not know what's going on," said one resident.

And some think the policy shows preference to one religion.

"What if they're Muslim, atheist, or anything else?" said another resident. "That's not fair to them."

And limiting the access to certain literatures may make re-entering society that much harder

"One thing we're supposed to be doing is rehabilitating and I don't know if we are actually doing that," Dunn said.

Prison Legal News magazine's editor Paul Wright confirmed that inmates at the detention center haven't received the magazine since 2008.

Officials with the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office declined comment because they haven't seen the lawsuit.

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