A South Carolina jail has settled a lawsuit that accused prison officials of violating inmates’ First Amendment rights by only allowing them to read the Bible.
The Justice Department announced Tuesday that it has entered into an agreement with the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office to settle the case. The American Civil Liberties Union sued the office last year, saying officials violated inmates’ rights when they would not deliver the Prison Legal News magazine– a monthly publication that reports on criminal justice issues.
Prison officials had said they did want the magazines because they contained staples that inmates could use as a weapon. The only book inmates were previously allowed to have in their possession was a soft-backed Bible.
Under the new agreement, inmates will be able to receive the magazine and other publications, including other religious texts. Prison officials also agreed to open a new library to the inmates.
“The rights guaranteed by the Constitution extend to all people in the United States,” said William N. Nettles, U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina. “By protecting those rights – even for the incarcerated – we strengthen those rights for all.”
Prosecutors said the sheriff’s office agreed to pay almost $600,000 in legal fees and damages.