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Michigan General Prison Talk, Introductions & Chit Chat Topics & Discussions relating to Prison & the Criminal Justice System in Michigan that do not fit into any other Michigan sub-forum category. Please feel free to also introduce yourself to other members in the state and talk about whatever topics come to mind that may not have anything to do with prison.

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  #1  
Old 09-20-2004, 03:20 PM
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Default Books from approved vendors

Can someone explain this to me? I sent some books from an APPROVED vendor (Amazon.com) and, according to the UPS website, they were delivered to the facility (Hiawatha) on the 8th of September. These books have yet to get to my friend. I know that at least one of the books (tThe DaVinci Code) is a book that is in the prison system library because I told him I was sending it to him and he told one of the other guys who said that he tried to get it from the library but it had just been sent back. Apparently, if someone wants a book from the library and it's at another facility, they will send it to the requestor for a month or so and then it goes to another facility. From what my friend has been told, all books go to the facility across the street (Kinross) where they have to be approved, then they get sent to Hiawatha, where they have to be approved again.

My question is two-fold: (1) if a book is already a part of the library system, why would it have to be approved again, and (2) what is the point of having an "approved" vendor list if they aren't going to approve what comes from them?

Sorry this is so long, I'm just beginning to lose my patience with this. I sent them early so that he could get them in time for his birthday (Oct 1), and now it looks like he's not going to get them in time.

TIA,
Jenny

PS the other two books are a sports story and a Far Side cartoon collection. Sounds pretty dangerous to me! ARRRRGGGH
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  #2  
Old 09-20-2004, 06:50 PM
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Dear Jenny,

There shouldn't be any reason why any of those books would not get it. I wonder if you could call Hiawatha and ask them what the hold up is? I have sent things from Amazon and not had much problem...

Good luck!

Jodi
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Old 09-20-2004, 08:04 PM
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I was thinking about doing that, but I don't want to cause any problems for my friend. It's just really irritating to me because it just seems like it's one more way for them to control them.

Thanks for responding, Jodi.

Jenny




Quote:
Originally Posted by snowdancer
Dear Jenny,

There shouldn't be any reason why any of those books would not get it. I wonder if you could call Hiawatha and ask them what the hold up is? I have sent things from Amazon and not had much problem...

Good luck!

Jodi
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Old 09-20-2004, 09:29 PM
XDOCLibrarian XDOCLibrarian is offline
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Having something sent from an approved vendor does not mean the item has to be allowed at every institution. Anyone who has any contact at all with any materials coming into any individual facility has the responsibility (and right) to make a decision as to whether the item violates the mail policy in any way! There is a lot of variation between facilities and items that might not be accepted at one facility may offend in some way another staff person in another facility!! Some facilities are very strict about any magazine with anyone making a gang sign so some magazines get restricted at a facility like that every time!! Some staff are more "religious" and may keep out the alleged "porn" more often than at others!

Also the fact that the book is already in the library does not mean that it won't show up on the list later if someone reads it more closely! I have had many books that I had to retrieve from inmates because they got added to the list!! Some books written years ago!!

Anyone who denies an item to an inmate has a lot of paperwork to do and is supposed to submit the item for consideration for the "restricted publications list" and I have never known Lansing to not add something that was submitted! That process takes a long time and now has to go through the Warden. It didn't when I first worked for the department and I submitted items on occasion myself! I had a Warden who agreed the inmates at my institution didn't need to read an item but she did not want to submit the item to Lansing and that is allowed by policy too!

The big problem is that the updated list is not sent back to the facilities often enough and in the meantime other inmates get the same material and it might get by another staff member that is not quite so "vigilant" as the one that stopped it the time before!! This inconsistency is most often noticed in magazines because they are only current and an issue for a short period of time! When the inmate gets transferred they might lose property when someone at the new facility checks their property a little more closely!

While I'm explaining the restricted publications process I should clarify that magazine titles may not be restricted (Supreme Court ruling) but each issue must be evaluated individually and every issue of some magazines do get on the list eventually!!

When I first started working for the department the list was embarrassing to read because the predominance of porn titles but as time has gone on there are more and more "real books" that make the list for one reason or another!! There is a big "catch all" category called "threat to the order and security of the institution" that can cover many issues!! I still have access to this process as I do the interlibrary loans for one of our local prisons and I still evaluate books and will not provide books that I feel compromise policy! I read a book last week that I recommended not go inside!

All of this explanation aside I do not know for sure if any of this process is holding up your friend's book or not! Sometimes the mail room is very short staffed and sorting the first class and legal mail will take a priority. I have not read this specific book yet but if I can help with any other information about the process let me know!
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Old 09-21-2004, 05:46 AM
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XDOCLIBRARIAN: Is there any way that the general public (i.e. PTO Members) can get a copy of the list of publications that are not allowed. Can you somehow give it to us or can we get it through a FOI request. If FOI, what address should we use.

Thanks - Catlady
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Old 09-21-2004, 06:48 AM
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And that is why the MDOC gets sued and loses on first amendment issues which are rights as opposed to someone trying to force their views onto people which is not their right.
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Old 09-21-2004, 05:01 PM
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OK, first I will respond to Catlady.

I will see if I can get a copy of the list in an electronic format. Usually I get a print out of the list from the local facility librarian. The thing to remember is that the list is not static and gets updated on a rather irregular basis. Sometimes they may just put out a list of "additions" on an interim basis! I may even e-mail my old friend, Dave Burnett, and see if he can provide us with a link where we could all see it in a more updated format!!

Mabear:

The thing to remember is that general libraries are not a "right" of prisoners. Law Libraries have much more protection in the courts and that is only because someone decided that giving inmates access to legal books was the same as providing them access to the courts!!! (We could debate that issue but perhaps another time!!)

On rare occasions titles added to the restricted list may be challenged and I have known of only one case where they changed their mind on a book. I can't even remember for sure what that book was any more!! Age is a real pain sometimes! :-)

The courts have decided that the state has a right to control what inmates see/read in the interest of security. Are there problems with the way policy is interpreted at times? Yes and that's what makes the process so frustrating to administrate and enforce!! We got a memo once that said they couldn't have things with pictures of "simulated sexual activity"!! We had people trying to keep out magazines because of sultry looking women in perfume ads!! It would be so much easier if there wasn't so much room for interpretation but even Supreme Court Chief Justice Potter Stewart said "I'll know it when I see it" when referring to community standards for pornography!!

I used to tell the inmates that complaining that Title B is restricted when they already have Title A will only get Title A looked at more carefully!! I always recommended keeping a list of things they wanted to read after release!! I didn't always agree with the reason things got put on the list but any employee jeopardizes their job if they knowingly allow something that violates policy!! And if the department wanted to really be strict about only allowing things that would rehabilitate and edify the inmates I'm afraid the allowed book list would be much shorter than the disallowed list!! :-/

Sorry if I come across as being too pro-DOC at times but I do know policy pretty well and hope that insight can be a help in this forum!
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Old 09-21-2004, 05:18 PM
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The biggest problem I have with this whole thing is that they do NOT monitor the movies they show--videos on the weekends and holidays--yet they monitor some books that are not porn or gangster or in any way a threat to security... I would think that videos protraying crime and gangs and drugs etc... should NOT be shown and instead show the great movies that are out there.... I've always wondered this as has my hubby who usually refrains from watching the videos as they're garbage...

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Old 09-21-2004, 09:19 PM
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XDOC...."The thing to remember is that general libraries are not a "right" of prisoners."...You know as well as all of us that sometimes, Many times, its not the policies at all but the person approving or disapproving it.
YOU SAY "Anyone who has any contact at all with any materials coming into any individual facility has the responsibility (and right) to make a decision as to whether the item violates the mail policy in any way! There is a lot of variation between facilities and items that might not be accepted at one facility may offend in some way another staff person in another facility!! Some facilities are very strict about any magazine with anyone making a gang sign so some magazines get restricted at a facility like that every time!! Some staff are more "religious" and may keep out the alleged "porn" more often than at others!" ...A personal opinion does not warrant a flat out denial. This is a mail issue and not a library issue. Its more than policy, by your admittance, its personal (something the doc enjoys taking advantage of), never the less we are losing tax dollars because of it. Getting back to the original question, NO they should not be checked twice. They are not even supposed to go to the library as a matter of fact. Mail room is supposed to take care of it and some dont want to bother so they tie up tons of time by passing the buck, wasting our tax dollars on extra people. There are places that send them to the warehouse. Not because they dont want to read them first but because the right hand just dont know what the left hand wants to do. Again, a waste of precious tax dollars.
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Old 09-22-2004, 04:37 AM
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It isn't a matter of general libraries being a "right". That "someone" who gave them the right to a law library was a judge. Darn those inmates. I've known Lansing to not put quite a few on the restricted list and even know of one librarian who thought they would try a newspaper. I have also known of suits being filed or threatened to be filed if they were put on restricted lists. The problem comes when someone decides that because of their gender, race or religion that they will tramp all over someone elses because of their personal agenda. I'm not talking about books that explain how to escape from prison in 5 easy steps. My personal opinion is that the MDOC has not been challenged enough. The threat of having something happen to your loved one is enough to keep most quiet. Excuse me but rehabilitation is not a concern of the MDOC's and edify prisoners, well I guess that would depend on which religion they belonged to which is part of the problem. In the meantime as Angeltop said our tax money is being wasted by this kind of stuff. I also know policy very well and can not even recount the number of times I have had to read them to MDOC employees. They need to follow their own mail policies.
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Old 09-22-2004, 04:57 PM
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MDOC needs to follow all their own policys...some people take the color of law just a little too far because they can and have been able to...
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Old 09-23-2004, 09:48 PM
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I just wanted to add that my son is also at Hiawatha and was told he was sent books a month ago. He finally received a couple but 2 books were rejected and were returned to me on a visit. He said the librarian there is very slow.....and he did challenge him to the books he rejected to some of the books he has actually checked out of the library. Ultimately the librarian had the final word, of course.
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