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ACLU to Michigan prisons: banning non-English language books is discriminatory

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The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan is asking the state’s Department of Corrections to allow inmates access to more foreign-language books.

Two months ago, the department lifted its ban on non-English language dictionaries. But some educational materials and phrase books in languages other than English are still not allowed.

In a letter sent to MDOC this week, the ACLU says the policy violates the first amendment.

Ramis Wadood is an attorney with the nonprofit.

“I think at the heart of the foreign language, material bans is discrimination. It's great that they removed the ban on foreign language dictionaries, the heart of the issue of discrimination still exists as to other foreign language materials."

Chris Gautz is a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Corrections. He says a meeting is planned next week to review its list of banned books.

"The director is committed to looking at every book on that list, and to making sure that the books on that list still need to be there. And if there are any process, processes that we can change, that would, you know, keep the list from growing in ways that we don't feel it needs to anymore."

Gautz says officials want to make sure English language learners have access to materials in their own language.

As WKAR's Bilingual Latinx Stories Reporter, Michelle reports in both English and Spanish on stories affecting Michigan's Latinx community. Michelle is also the voice of WKAR's weekend news programs.