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Maryland DOC Rescinds Ban on Prisoner’s Book

On July 20, 2011, the Maryland Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services (DPSCS) rescinded its ban on The Marshall Plan: The Life and Times of a Baltimore Black Panther, a memoir co-authored by Maryland state prisoner Marshall “Eddie” Conway and Dominque Stevenson with the American Friends Service Committee.
Maryland Correctional Training Center acting warden Wayne Webb had banned the book two weeks earlier. DPSCS spokesman Rick Binetti said the memoir was disallowed because it contained pictures of other prisoners without having notifying the victims of their crimes.

“[DPSCS] procedures dictate that any inmate photographed for media/other publication purposes be cleared through the proper victim notification process. This means they check to see if there is a victim notification request by the victim or victim’s family in the inmate’s file requesting they be notified should there be a photo/interview/media request of the inmate,” Binetti said. “Generally speaking, victims ask that the inmate not be allowed to be interviewed/photographed.”

The DPSCS revoked its ban on The Marshall Plan after the ACLU threatened litigation. ACLU staff attorney David Rocah called the ban “flagrantly unconstitutional,” noting that the preferences of victims do not trump prisoners’ First Amendment rights.

Ironically, the DPSCS had recently purchased hundreds of books and organized reading and discussion groups for prisoners as part of its “Big Read” program. According to a DPSCS press release, the goal of the program was “to get disenfranchised or lapsed readers (like inmates) to pick up a book, because in this case education is key to breaking the cycle of recidivism.”

Unless that book is written by an incarcerated former Black Panther, apparently.

Sources:, Baltimore Sun,

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