(NEW YORK)– PEN America today welcomes the decision by the New York State Department of Corrections (NYDOC) to rescind a proposed directive that would have undermined the free expression rights of incarcerated writers by limiting their ability to publish.

Following up on a statement issued on Tuesday, PEN America said any policy that limits free expression is unjustifiable and one that burdens nonprofits seeking to uplift incarcerated writers, artists and other creatives seems a poor use of NYDOC’s time and effort.

Directive 4406 would have prohibited people incarcerated in New York from submitting their work to writing contests unless the Commissioner of New York’s prison system–or someone designated by the Commissioner–gives them individual permission. In addition, organizations like PEN America and others would be required to obtain approval from the DOC’s Director of Education to run contests, such as PEN America’s Annual Prison Writing Contest, which has been conducted for more than three decades.

Moira Marquis, senior manager of PEN America’s Freewrite Project, said: “Any effort to crush the right of incarcerated people to express themselves, and in particular, to limit literacy and literary creativity is an idea that should never have seen the light of day. We are relieved that the New York corrections agency has backed down on a proposal that would interfere with concrete rehabilitative benefits.”

PEN America will continue to advocate for correctional departments to protect the First Amendment rights of incarcerated people and recognize that censorship is inconsistent with a free society.

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. To learn more visit PEN.org