The Danville Correctional Center in Illinois has removed more than 200 books from its library, volunteers from the Education Justice Project and Illinois Public Media confirmed.
The books were removed from a library in the facility’s education wing. Rebecca Ginsburg, director of the Education Justice Project at the prison, said she felt a pit in her stomach when she realized the books had been removed. “I felt sick,” she said.
The Education Justice Project offers University of Illinois classes to inmates housed at DCC.
Illinois Department of Corrections Director John Baldwin said the books shouldn’t have been in the facility in the first place.
“Somehow, a lot of books got into the institution without going through our review process,” he said. “That was our fault.”
Asked to explain how his staff identified the 200 books that needed to be re- moved and reviewed, Bald- win said, “I don’t know how the facility found that out. I have no idea.”
The library was created to provide the general population books required for the students in the facility to complete their coursework and just marked its 10th anniversary this year.
The majority of the removed books centered on race. Ginsburg believed race is the issue for the books’ removal.
“Are they removing all Black books?” she asked. “Reading about the history of slavery, post emancipation, and the black experience in the United States is an important part of developing a Black person that is whole in society.”
Ginsburg contacted State Rep. Carol Ammons and showed her the list of the removed books. “I was totally taken aback by the list…” She wanted to know what if the objections were based on race. She plans to make other state lawmakers aware of the book removal and remains committed to making sure this does not happen again.
The following is a sample of books removed: Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington; Visiting Day, a children’s book about a parent who is in prison, and various titles about Black history by professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. A majority of the books removed from the program’s library were about race.
These types of censorship restrictions exist nationwide. Washington State has banned book donations. Arizona Department of Corrections banned a book written by a former federal prosecutor that dealt with racism in the criminal justice system, arguing that the book posed a threat to security in prison.
The Illinois Department of Corrections Director John Baldwin was asked what constitutes inappropriate content. He pointed to his department’s publication review policy, which states the following guidelines: material that is sexually explicit or otherwise obscene; facilitates communications between offenders; encourages hatred, violence or other criminal activities; is detrimental to security.
Michael Tafolla, who was recently released after serving 20 years in Illinois for murder, challenged the premise that books cause riots or fights at the prison. “If people like me that come from poverty- stricken neighborhoods learn how to be much more and value ourselves, we’re going to be less likely to be breaking the law or doing other at risk things.” Tafolla is now em- ployed as a case manager for the Chicago based Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, working with at-risk adults.