- The Washington Times - Monday, June 11, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) — Inmates at the federal prison camp in Otisville, N.Y., were stunned by what they saw at the chapel library on Memorial Day — hundreds of books had disappeared from the shelves.

The removal of the books is occurring nationwide, part of a long-delayed, post-September 11 federal directive intended to prevent radical religious texts, specifically Islamic ones, from reaching violent inmates. Three inmates at Otisville filed suit over the policy, saying the constitutional rights were violated and texts of all religions were affected.

“The set of books that have been taken out have been ones that we used to minister to new converts when they come in here,” inmate John Okon, speaking on behalf of the prison’s Christian population, told a judge last week.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Feldman told U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain, an appointee of President Clinton, that prison libraries limited the number of books for each religion to between 100 and 150 under the new rules. He said officials would expand the number after choosing a new list of permitted books.

The removal order stemmed from an April 2004 Department of Justice review of the way prisons choose Muslim religious services providers.