NJ DOC book ban lists and appeals

Daniel Gross filed this request with the State of New Jersey Department of Corrections of New Jersey.


From: Daniel Gross

To Whom It May Concern:

Pursuant to the New Jersey Open Public Records Act, I hereby request the following records:

—All lists of books, periodicals, and other publications and printed materials that are banned for individuals in New Jersey Department of Corrections custody
—All records of inmate appeals or challenges to book bans, including responses/decisions from the facility and/or the NJ DOC

Please include lists of specific banned titles as well as lists/descriptions of prohibited subject matter.

Please include any lists that apply statewide as well as lists, appeals/challenges, and responses/decisions for the following facilities:

New Jersey State Prison, Northern State Prison, East Jersey State Prison, Central Reception and Assignment Facility, South Woods State Prison, Bayside State Prison, Southern State Correctional Facility, Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women, Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center, Garden State Youth Correctional Facility, Albert C. Wagner Youth Correctional Facility, William H. Fauver Youth Correctional Facility.

I am submitting this request as part of news gathering in my capacity as a full-time journalist at Insider Inc. in New York City.

The requested documents will be made available to the general public, and this request is not being made for commercial purposes.

In the event that there are fees, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 7 business days, as the statute requires.


Daniel Gross

From: State of New Jersey Department of Corrections

Dear Mr. Gross,

The list is attached and applies statewide.

The Department cannot comply with the second portion of your request. Each appeal is be handled and records maintained by a specific inmate. You would have to know a specific inmate and date range for a reasonable search to be conducted.

You have a right to challenge the decision by the Department of Corrections. At your option, you may either institute a proceeding in the Superior Court of New Jersey or file a complaint in writing with the Government Records Council (GRC). You may contact the GRC by toll-free telephone at 866-850-0511, by mail at P.O. Box 819, Trenton, NJ 08625, by e-mail at grc@dca.state.nj.us<mailto:grc@dca.state.nj.us>, or at their web site at www.state.nj.us/grc<http://www.state.nj.us/grc>. The Council can also answer other questions about the law.

Thank you,
John Falvey
NJDOC Records Custodian

From: Daniel Gross

Thanks for sending this, John.

To clarify—are you saying that facilities no longer keep their own lists of banned publications, distinct from the statewide list that you shared? I've seen news reports from 2018 that said individual NJ correctional facilities kept lists of banned books. If you can point me to any documentation that this policy has changed, that would be helpful. For reference, see: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/01/08/576474770/new-jersey-reverses-ban-on-book-about-mass-incarceration-under-fire-from-aclu

Thank you for the information about requests for appeals of the book ban policy. When you mention "records maintained by a specific inmate," are you saying that NJ DOC does not keep its own records of appeals and decisions, and that they are instead in the possession of incarcerated individuals? Or simply that NJ DOC classifies such records by individual incarcerated person, hence the requirement for a name and date range?


From: State of New Jersey Department of Corrections

Correct. There is only a statewide list.

This is correct: Or simply that NJ DOC classifies such records by individual incarcerated person, hence the requirement for a name and date range

From: Daniel Gross

Thank you, John. I will submit a new request if I want to follow up on the request for appeals records.