Federal judge: Va. prisons’ CD policy violates free expression

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

RICHMOND, Va. — A federal judge has ruled in favor of a Louisiana man who challenged a Virginia prison system policy that restricts the kind of CDs inmates can have.

U.S. District Judge James Spencer in Richmond granted a motion by Owen North of LeCompte, La., for summary judgment yesterday.

At issue was a policy allowing inmates to have only approved music and faith-based spoken-word CDs, such as religious sermons. The policy prevented North from giving a Virginia inmate a spoken-word CD by writer Dylan Thomas as a Christmas gift.

Spencer ruled that the “policy which permits religious spoken-word CDs but prohibits secular spoken-word CDs is not supported by adequate justification,” and concluded that the policy “violates North’s First Amendment right of expression.”

Prison officials had claimed the restrictions served a valid government interest.

North filed a federal lawsuit last April. His friend, Shawn Goode, is a prisoner at Nottoway Correctional Center.

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