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    A Times Editorial

    Book ban hinders rehabilitation

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published August 30, 2001

    The shortsighted policy of barring juvenile offenders from reading in their cells serves neither the juveniles nor the state.

    The Department of Juvenile Justice designates books as contraband except in classrooms and recreation areas. The argument for this policy is that books in cells pose a potential security risk. Security is always a legitimate concern, but controlling which inmates may check out books and keeping careful track of inventory should discourage acts of vandalism, and the regular cell checks should unearth any attempt to use books to fashion or conceal a weapon. With proper supervision, books, like television and other privileges, could be effectively rationed to reward and punish.

    The book ban would seem to fly in the face of the department's philosophy, which is built around rehabilitation and education for young offenders. Most parents of adolescents would probably be thrilled if their youngsters read voluntarily anywhere. And for many juveniles, a detention center stay is a period of relative quiet and calm in otherwise chaotic, distraction-filled lives.

    Young people everywhere -- and those in detention more than most -- need the expanded horizons and sense of possibility that come from reading books.

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