States’ Rights again? More good Christians behaving badly? Or just asshats in authority?
If you’re a criminal who likes to read — and/or religious, but not Christian — then the last place you want to be jailed in is Moncks Corner, SC. According to legal complaints, the only book, good or otherwise, that inmates at the Berkeley County Detention Center can readily get their hands on is the Bible.
The U.S. Department of Justice, brandishing its own sacred text — the U.S. Constitution — has filed a complaint against the sheriff’s office that runs the alleged book-barring jail. It’s moving to join a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union last October
Berkeley County Sheriff/defendant H. Wayne DeWitt “maintains that any actions taken at the jail are justified to preserve health and safety, and to further the pursuit of ‘legitimate penological objectives.’ ” — The Newsfeed
“Any actions” at all? Flogging, gang-raping, picking cotton? Sheriff DeWitt can’t come to the phone, but his spokesthing, one Nester Clapp, is pleased to speak with me when I call.
“We will defend our professional integrity as peace officers,” he informs me. “Our commitment is to public safety. “
That’s commendable, Sir. What does that have to do with banning books?
Rural? Unsophisticated? Poorly educated?
“How ‘bout dumb as six chickens?” he suggests. “And the ones commitin’ crimes and getting’ caught at it are a step below that.”
Does that make it five chickens or seven chickens?
“So they ain’t all that likely to be big on readin’ to begin with. They’re pretty ignorant, tell the truth. And what we figger is, ignorant crim’nals are easier to keep track of than un-ignorant crim’nals. So when we get ‘em inside, we like to make sure than if and when they get set loose they’re as ignorant or ignoranter than when they got here.”
Wait a minute — you’re saying that reading the bible keeps them ignorant?
“I didn’t say that. Did I? What I mean is, we don’t want ‘em readin’ at all. But we figger we give ‘em a bible, that’ll keep ‘em quiet, and discourage them from wantin’ to read nothin’ else cuz ever’thing you need to know is right there.”
Have YOU read the bible? It’s got all sorts of blood and violence, not to mention all those nasty “begats” and wife-swapping.
“’Course I read the bible, and still do. And it don’t hurt me none, fact is, it does me a world o’ good. Y’all might try it yourself, might learn you some respect and manners.” The line goes dead.
They’ll lose this suit, of course, and provide the rest of the country with another little snarky laugh at the expense of the back-asswards deep South, vintage Deliverance style law enforcement agents, and chancel-prancing bible harpies everywhere. Meanwhile, if I’m the presiding justice in this case, I’d make the prison officials submit a longish essay on the meaning of the Bill of Rights, a document not found in the Good Book, and one they obviously haven’t read very carefully. I might make them sit in a jail cell until they finished, too. Might help deignorantize them.