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New York Makes It Harder for Inmates to Get Books

This week, Christopher Garcia, a thirty-two-year-old who lives in
Brooklyn, ordered a belated Christmas present for his father. He chose
two books on Amazon: “The Grand Design,” by Stephen Hawking, and
“Reality Is Not What It Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity,” by Carlo Rovelli, and sent them
to the Shawangunk Correctional Facility, in Wallkill, New York. His
father, Edwin, an avid reader of science fiction, was convicted of
robbery in 1995. In the past year, Garcia has sent his father about ten
books. They take a few extra days to reach their destination because of
careful inspections. “Books are everything,” Garcia told me. “My dad
hasn’t seen a smartphone—he doesn’t have access to anything, beyond

Yesterday, Garcia learned that he will soon lose the ability to send his

father books. This fall, New York correctional institutions plan to
eliminate package delivery for inmates, with the exception of items
ordered from a short list of approved prison venders. Six venders have
been approved so far, among them Walkenhorst and J.L. Marcus, companies
that sell items such as tennis shoes and electronics through mail-order
catalogues; two more will be added soon. (The policy has already taken
effect in a pilot program at three New York prisons: Greene, Green
Haven, and Taconic.) The package ban applies not only to clothes, fresh
food, and household items but also to reading materials, which has
prompted critics to accuse the New York Department of Corrections and
Community Supervision, or DOCCS, of censorship. Several observers
pointed out that
the initial five approved venders offered fewer than a hundred

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