Inmate cites alleged anti-LGBT censorship

Inmate cites alleged anti-LGBT censorship

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An openly gay federal inmate says prison authorities have denied more than 50 requests he’s made for LGBT-themed reading materials.

In a letter to PGN, Kenneth J. Houck Jr. said he made the requests through the U.S. Bureau of Prison’s interlibrary-loan program during 2015-16.

Houck, 41, filed a formal complaint with authorities at the Marion, Ill., Federal Penitentiary in January.

The complaint alleges that prison officials are violating Houck’s constitutional right to access “popular literature of American culture.” 

“This is especially true considering that Houck’s 50-plus submissions of inter-library loan requests over 2015-16 were all gay-themed books and were all then summarily denied,” according to the complaint.

As of presstime, Houck hadn’t received a response to his complaint from the prison warden, he said.

Houck, 41, is incarcerated for transporting child pornography. His scheduled release date is June 23, 2018. 

In his letter to PGN, Houck expressed hope that he’ll be released to a halfway house later this year if authorities grant him credit for good behavior.

In November 2011, Houck was severely injured during an assault at the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia. His right leg was broken in multiple places.

Houck said his two assailants hurled anti-LGBT slurs while assaulting him, though authorities declined to classify the incident as a hate crime.

Houck is suing the U.S. Bureau of Prisons for more than $1 million in damages, citing numerous harms stemming from the assault. 

Justin Long, a BOP spokesperson, declined to comment specifically about Houck’s complaint regarding access to LGBT-themed reading materials.

“We do not comment on inmates’ complaints, which are addressed through an internal process called the Administrative Remedy Program in which inmates can seek formal review and redress of concerns they have regarding their incarceration,” Long said in an email.

In response to a question about the BOP’s reading-material policies, Long said: “[A] warden may reject publications if they are determined to be detrimental to the security, good order or discipline of the institution. However, [a BOP policy] specifically states on page 4, that ‘Publications ... covering the activities of gay rights organizations or gay religious groups, for example, should be admitted unless they are otherwise a threat to legitimate institution interests.’ Further, it states, ‘Literary publications should not be excluded, solely because of homosexual themes or references, if they are not sexually explicit in a manner that threatens legitimate institution interests.’”

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