Last Friday, Mark Melvin, who is serving a life sentence at the Kilby Correctional Facility near Montgomery, Alabama, filed suit in federal court against the prison’s officials and the state commissioner of corrections, claiming they have unjustly kept a book out of his hands.
According to Melvin’s lawsuit, prison officials seemed the book — a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation of the brutal treatment of black prisoners in late 19th and early 20th century Americans — to be a security threat.
Melvin, 33, said the book was sent to him a year ago by his lawyer, at a time when he was in his 18th year of incarceration. He was charged at 14 years of age with helping his brother commit two murders. He was paroled in 2008, but was sent back to prison over what his lawyer called “technical violations.” It was then that the 33-year-old inmate began working at the prison library, and reading voraciously.
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