Author of Pulitzer Prize-winning Attica history suing New York over ban on book in prisons
Heather Ann Thompson, a Pulitzer Prize winner for her history of the bloody 1971 Attica uprising, is suing the state of New York because it has blocked incarcerated people from receiving her book while imprisoned.
The New York Civil Liberties Union and the Civil Rights Clinic at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law filed the federal lawsuit on behalf of Thompson.
"People have a right to read, and people have a right to history," Thompson said in a news release from the Civil Liberties Union. "We also have a right to have our books read. It’s a shame we live in a country where we censor people and ideas."
Thompson authored "Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising and Its Legacy," considered the authoritative history of the nation's deadliest prison riot. During the 1971 uprising, 43 people were killed — 29 inmates and 10 prison employee hostages when police stormed the prison behind a wall of gunfire.
Thompson also served as a lead consultant on the documentary, "Attica," which was a finalist for an Academy Award this year.
" 'Blood in the Water' is a carefully researched account that includes the perspectives of incarcerated people, prison guards, their families, government officials and members of the public," Cardozo’s Civil Rights Clinic director Betsy Ginsberg said in the news release. "It is, simply put, a history book, and its denial to incarcerated people runs counter to this country’s core values."
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The Supreme Court has allowed the banning of certain books in prisons, as long as there is an administrative review process.
According to the lawsuit, "Blood in the Water" has been banned at least a dozen times at prisons across New York.
A corrections department directive prohibits materials that "advocate expressly or by clear implication, acts of disobedience" toward "law enforcement officers or prison personnel," the lawsuit states. That directive has been used to block "Blood in the Water" in the prisons.
The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision said Friday it does not comment on pending litigation.
Contact Gary Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at gcraig1.