Experts Discuss Prison Chapel Library Controversy

Columbia Law School Professors Weigh-In on Prison Chapel Reading List Controversy
Press contact: Erin Kelly 212-854-1787
September 21, 2007 (NEW YORK) — Several Columbia Law School professors are available to address the federal Bureau of Prisons decision to purge prison chapel libraries of religious materials and books that are not on its approved list, which is part of its Standardized Chapel Library Project. Professors  Jeffrey A. Fagan,  Philip Genty, and Michael C. Dorf are experts on prisoner and First Amendment rights.
“Religion and ties to religious institutions and networks of people with shared faith are important protective factors that increase the chance of successful re-entry from prison. Denial of the chance to develop the justifying ideologies of religion, and entreé to social networks of people for whom religion is both a faith and a social and often an economic tie, places former inmates at greater risk for returning to social worlds and lifestyles of crime,” said Professor Jeffrey A. Fagan, Professor of Law & Public Health; Co-Director, Center on Crime, Community and Law. He has conducted research on law and social policy since 1976.
Professor Jeffrey A. Fagan can be reached directly at 917-806-7554 or [email protected]
"The decision by the Bureau of Prisons to permit prisoners to read only approved religious materials could conceivably be held to be legal by the courts, which tend to construe prisoners' rights narrowly when interpreting the First Amendment and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. But that doesn't make it the right decision," said Michael C. Dorf, Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law. Professor Dorf has clerked on the Supreme Court and taught on topics from civil procedure, to democratic experimentalism, comparative constitutions, federal courts and pragmatism. His most recent book is “No Litmus Test: Law and Politics in the Twenty-First Century.” He comments on legal issues on his blog, Dorf On Law.
Professor Michael C. Dorf can be reached at [email protected] or 212-854-2672.
Professor Philip Genty, Clinical Professor of Law, has been an attorney at Prisoner’s Legal Services. He has researched and taught prisoners' rights, family law, appellate advocacy and professional responsibility. He is available for comment on Monday, Sept. 24, 2007 and can be reached at 212-854-3250 or [email protected].
Reporters can schedule live and taped TV interviews in the Law School’s fiber optic transmission studio. Contact [email protected].