Restore LexisNexis Legal Database Access at Westville Correctional Facility!

As of August 13, 2019, inmates at the Westville Correctional Facility have not had access to the electronic legal database LexisNexis for over seven months. With physical legal resources being purged from the Library’s collection and digital legal resources being inaccessible indefinitely, this leaves people who are incarcerated at Westville entirely without access to legal resources. People cannot be expected to fully rehabilitate without access to legal resources, nor can they adequately research and argue their legal cases. The Indiana Department of Corrections, in failing to provide access to legal materials, is in direct violation of federal and state policies in addition to violating American Library Association bylaws.

Inmates at Westville have petitioned the Westville Correctional Facility and the Indiana Department of Corrections about being unable to access LexisNexis and have received no response from the Facility or the DOC. This is in violation of the Constitutional right to petition the courts guaranteed by the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

Further, Indiana Department of Corrections Policy 01-01-102, The Development and Delivery of Education and Recreation Library Services, states that all IDOC facilities must provide library services that meet the “educational, informational, technological, and recreational interests and needs of the offender population”, in accordance with IC Policy 00-02-101 and DOC Executive Directive #17-24 (§ II, IX). Librarians at each facility are responsible for “ensur[ing] the continuous delivery of library services in the most effective and efficient manner possible (§ II), including maintaining a “Reference collection containing general and specialized materials” (§ IV).

The American Library Association, in the Prisoners’ Right to Read interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights (2010), asserts that, “Participation in a democratic society requires unfettered access to current social, political, legal, economic, cultural, scientific, and religious information” (American Library Association, 2010). When correctional libraries fail to provide unfettered access to legal resources, including those that are hosted online, this rehabilitative goal cannot be actualized.

Library staff at the Westville Correctional Facility must work with the Administration of the Indiana Department of Corrections to reinstate access to legal resources through the LexisNexis database. We urge the American Library Association, civil society organizations, and the relevant authorities to take immediate action to rectify this situation of ongoing rights and policy abuses at Westville Correctional Facility.

IDOC Watch