Tell Me What You Read; I Will Tell You What You Are

Megan Sweeney

in Reading Is My Window

Published by University of North Carolina Press

Published in print February 2010 | ISBN: 9780807833520
Published online July 2014 | e-ISBN: 9781469604367
Tell Me What You Read; I Will Tell You What You Are

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This chapter focuses on the majority opinion in Beard v. Banks, which constructs reading as a privilege that best serves the interests of the penal system when it is denied to uncooperative prisoners. In his concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas argues that the current ruling is justified because it is consistent with eighteenth-century Pennsylvania punishment practices, which isolated prisoners from the outside world by allowing no reading materials except the Bible and by denying prisoners contact with their families. The majority opinion dismisses legal cases that have found increased contact with the world conducive to rehabilitation, arguing that such findings are moot when “dealing with especially difficult prisoners.” Although the Pennsylvania prison deputy describes the policy as designed to make prisoners “productive citizen[s],” the Court's majority opinion thus conveys little faith in the possibility that these prisoners may actually become productive citizens or that reading may facilitate such a process.

Keywords: Beard v. Banks; reading; penal system; uncooperative prisoners; Justice Clarence Thomas; punishment practices

Chapter.  14538 words. 

Subjects: Gender and Sexuality

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