Censorship of Reading Materials

Under the current DOC policy (103 CMR 481), prisoners should be able to receive any reading material sent to them from the publisher of the material itself (unless the material falls into one of the categories listed in 103 CMR 481.15(2) which are censored under the regulations). The DOC policy for disapproving incoming publications requires that a notice be promptly sent to the prisoner and to the sender, stating the reason for disapproval and explaining that the prisoner and the sender have a right to appeal the determination. 103 CMR 481.16(2). Prisoners can ask to inspect the disapproved materials, with officers present, for the purpose of filing an appeal. 103 CMR 481.16(4). The Superintendent must reply to a prisoner’s appeal within a reasonable time. 103 CMR 481.16(5). If this procedure is not followed, the prisoner should grieve it and appeal any denied grievance, keeping copies of all paperwork.

We recognize that access to reading materials is very important for prisoners as it is a way to get information about the outside world, to learn, to study religion, to pass the time in a meaningful way, to relax and to exercise First Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution. We are disappointed that the DOC has chosen to restrict prisoners’ ability to exercise these rights and to make it difficult for prisoners to get reading materials of their own choosing.

PLS is unable to assist prisoners with this issue.