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The Berrigans

In response to:

On "The Dark Night of the Soul" from the October 22, 1970 issue

To the Editors:

In the editorial footnote to Daniel Berrigan’s piece in the October 22 issue, mention is made of the fact that Father Berrigan is in “Danbury federal prison where he is now prevented from publishing anything he may write.”

Unfortunately, the truth is, of course, that he will write nothing while in a federal prison because he will not be permitted to write. In the sense that Father Berrigan has published some of his work, he is a professional writer, and federal law prohibits any professional writer from writing professionally while a prisoner in the federal prison system. This is a regulation of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

While the majority of state prison systems allow prisoners both to write and publish, the federal prison system considers such activity prejudicial to good order. Moreover, in those instances where it will allow a non-professional (i.e., anybody but those who have demonstrated an aptitude for putting words to paper) to write for recreation, it has complete authority to confiscate such manuscripts at the time of the prisoner’s release.

Because so many of us writers today face the possibility of federal imprisonment for exercising our constitutional rights, it becomes mandatory that we have the regulation changed. Father Berrigan is merely the latest to fall victim to this inhuman bit of indecency. There have been many others. There will be many more.

Shane Stevens

New York City

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