Kilby prisoner files lawsuit against Department of Corrections

Published: Sep. 27, 2011 at 10:48 PM CDT
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Prisoner Mark Melvin is inside Kilby Correctional Facility because of his past.  Convicted of murder at age 14, he's spent greater part of his life behind bars.

While in prison, Melvin's attorney has mailed him countless books, as an investment into Melvin's future.

Attorney Bryan Stevenson explains, "Our country once had a commitment to rehabilitation and correction.  Most prisoners will, at some point, be released.  We can send them to prison and have them sit there angry, violent and then come back into our community.  Or we can actually think about using that time for reflection, rehabilitation and education."

But one book never made it into Melvin's hands; a Pulitzer Prize Winner, "Slavery by Another Name".

"Their position is the book is provocative, and a threat to prison security.  I think the ban has a lot to do with discomfort with racial violence, which is quite misguided."

Which is the basis of this book, documenting the history of Southern prison systems, and its treatment of African Americans.

"We can't overcome racial barriers without reading or talking about it in prisons, or schools or anywhere."

A year after the book was returned to Stevenson, he filed suit on Melvin's behalf against the Department of Corrections.

"I think the administration made a terrible mistake."

As for the exact reason why the Department of Corrections banned the book, we aren't sure.  The department isn't allowed to comment on pending litigation.

"It's only the books that are sent to him, that will give him the exposure that we take for granted."

A lawsuit asking that Melvin is granted constitutional rights, and compensation for his attorney.