The 2010 New York Times best-seller, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander, examines racial injustice through the lens of mass incarceration in the U.S. After landing on the North Carolina Department of Public Security's Disapproved Publications Report, it was banned in all state prisons.

On Tuesday, The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina protested, and the state changed its stance.

In his letter of complaint to DPS on Monday, ACLU Legal Director Chris Brook argued that The New Jim Crow merely underlined a reality well-familiar to prisoners and prison officials: in North Carolina, Black people comprise less than a quarter of the total population, but represent more than half of the state's prison population.

“Our criminal justice system exacts a disproportionate punishment on communities of color in our state, and we should be encouraging prisoners, but also everyone across the state of North Carolina, to get educated and seek solutions regarding this issue as opposed to banning books that raise difficult topics,” he says.

Less than 48 hours after Brooks' complaint, the ban was lifted. He says he and his colleagues are gratified by the prompt response, but more work needs to be done.

“I think the swiftness with which they acted is a testament to the fact that The New Jim Crow should never have been banned in our state prisons in the first place,” says Brook. “And I think that's a wake-up call that we as a state need to be doing a better job of managing and curating lists of books that are not going to be available to prisoners in our state.”

North Carolina Director of Prisons Kenneth Lassiter will now begin reviewing the entire Disapproved Publications Report to determine whether any other books will be removed from the list of nearly 500 entries.

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