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Q&A: How do NC inmates get publications?

Posted April 2, 2014
Updated April 3, 2014

Books at Wake Correctional Center's library.

How do North Carolina inmates get publications? North Carolina Department of Public Safety spokesman Keith Acree explains the process in a Q&A with WRAL News:

Q: How does the publication review process work? Can you give me an overview of who screens the books and who has the final say? How long does this process typically take?
A: The process for publication review is as follows:

1) Publications are received at the prison facilites and screened by the assigned facility publication screener. If the facility screener finds the publication on the Master List of Disapproved Publications, the inmate is notified that he or she cannot receive the publication. If the publication is not on the Master List and staff finds that the publication does not contain any content that violates the policy, the publication is immediately given to the inmate. If the publication content violates the policy, the screener refers the publication to the facility inmate publication coordinator for final decision. If the publication coordinator finds that the content does violate the policy, the publication is withheld and the inmate is notified of the reason for the diaspproval. The inmate is also notified at this time of his or her right to appeal the disapproval to the Division Inmate Publication Review Committee. The facility has seven days after receipt of a publication to either give it to the inmate, or notify the inmate of the disapproval and advise the inmate of his or her right to appeal.

2) The Division Publication Screener receives publications that are appealed to the Division Publication Review Committee by inmates. The Screener distributes the publications to members of the Publication Review Committee. Each member conducts an independent review of only the content in the publication that caused the disapproval. The Chairperson receives the publication after the members review and decision. The Chairperson reviews to determine that policy has been followed, and will only render a vote when there is a tie. The Chairperson places all disapproved publications on the Master List of Disapproved Publications. Publications remain on this list for one year. The Publication Review Committee has seven days to make a determination on a disapproved publication. If the Committee upholds the disapproval, the publisher is notified. The publisher has 15 days after receipt of the Publication Review Committee notice to appeal the disapproval. If the publisher’s appeal is not received within 15 days, the facility head and the inmate is notified of the Publication review Committee’s decision to uphold the disapproval. If the facility’s disapproval is upheld, the facility and the inmate are notified, and the facility determines from the inmate if he or she wants the publication destroyed or sent to an alternate address. If the Committee does not uphold the facility’s disapproval, the publication is returned to the facility with instructions to give the publication to the inmate.

Q: Are the publications typically ordered by prisoners, sent by family/friends, sent by the publisher, etc. or a combination of all of these?
A: A combination of all of the above.

Q: If a prisoner wants to order a publication, how does that process work? Is it possible to disapprove a publication before the inmate purchases it?
A: Inmates may order publications using money from their trust fund accounts. Publications ordered by inmates are not disapproved before the inmates purchase them. Inmates are made aware of the policy governing the type of content that will cause publications to be disapproved.

Q: How does the inmate library system work? Do those books have to go through the same approval/disapproval process?
A: Facility Library and the Division Library Coordinators manage publications that are in our libraries. They do not go through the same approval/disapproval process that the direct receipt of a publication by inmate does, but staff use the Publications Received/ Possessed by Inmates policy as guide in selecting/ordering publications for libraries.

Q: The publication policy says the publisher must be notified if a publication was disapproved. Why is it important to notify them and allow them to appeal?
A: The case law concerning inmate publications requires us to notify publishers and to give them an opportunity to request an independent review of a disapproval.

Q: How many publishers and inmates filed appeals last year? How many of those were upheld vs. overturned?
A: In 2013, 1,417 inmates filed appeals. In 168 cases, disapprovals were overturned and the inmate received the publication. There were 10 appeals received from publishers and three of those resulted in the overturn of the disapproval.

Q: How does the inmate publication exchange work?
A: Inmates are permitted to exchange approved publications with other inmates, but this cannot be used as a means to transfer contraband or as a way to barter. Such instances will be subject to disciplinary action.


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