The good news …

… is that the Bureau of prisons isn’t actually *burning* the religious books not on its “approved” list.

… is that the Federal Bureau of Prisons isn’t actually burning religious books. BOP simply made a list of approved books and other media (no more than 150 books and 150 other items for each of 20 religious categories) and ordered prison chaplains to get rid of any item not on the “approved” list.

I tend to distrust “bureacratic SNAFU” stories in newspapers, because so few reporters have any real idea of the constraints under which agencies have to operate. But this looks to me like a remarkably stupid act of cultural vandalism. There doesn’t even seem to be any systematic theological bias at work: some fool ordered that there be lists, and other fools put them together, with no apparent rhyme or reason.

Footnote Oh, and of course the lists themselves are secret; someone had to leak them to the NYT. After all, this is the Bush Administration, which figures that the less we know about what it’s up to, the better.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com