(NEW YORK)– In response to a new policy by the Michigan Correctional Facilities to restrict non-English dictionaries as a way “to ensure prison safety and protect correctional staff,” Anthony Johnson, research and advocacy manager at PEN America, released the following statement:

“Michigan Correctional Facilities’ decision to restrict non-English dictionaries is an alarming and egregious act to limit the First Amendment rights of incarcerated people who speak and read in languages other than English. Viewing books wrongly as dangerous or harmful to safety and security has a long and detrimental history as a means to prohibit access to literature and limit free expression for incarcerated people. This is particularly troublesome in the current situation of limiting access to a book as fundamental as a dictionary. In mandating “English-only” as a prerequisite for books of any kind, Michigan’s Correctional Facilities counter-productively places severe restrictions on access to literature for incarcerated people. To punish a broad segment of the prison population is short-sighted, in addition to trampling on prisoners’ fundamental rights.”

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, STrimel@PEN.org, 201-247-5057