Drug paraphernalia. Gang-colored accessories. Knives. Shivs. Shanks. Wine Spectator magazine? One of these things is not like the others, but that may not be an opinion shared by the administrators of New Jersey penitentiaries: Unfiltered has learned that our parent publication appears to be among the books and magazines banned in New Jersey prisons. That’s right, New Jersey’s incarcerated wine lovers might not be permitted to enjoy their favorite wine publication.
The ban came to Unfiltered’s attention during the controversy surrounding the state’s decision to ban The New Jim Crow, a book about the mass incarceration of people of color (the ban on this particular book has since been lifted after public outcry). The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Jersey sent a Government Records Request to the New Jersey Department of Corrections, demanding documents detailing policies on restricting publications, as well as the titles of the banned materials. There, in the company of High Times, Senseless Carnage, Cocaine Nation, How to Hustle & Win (Parts I and II) and, uh,Parents magazine, we spotted “Wine Spectacular.”
Since no such book or magazine seems to exist, we inferred the New Jersey DOC meant to list Wine Spectator. When reached for comment, a DOC spokesperson would not confirm that the banned Wine Spectacular is, in fact, supposed to be the same title as the discerning inmate’s go-to source for objective reviews of over 16,000 wines per year and in-depth features on wineries, restaurants and regions to watch. But the DOC did offer this glimmer of hope: “Although the NJDOC’s policy regarding the availability of written materials to the inmate population is in accordance with the New Jersey Administrative Code 10A, please note that the department’s policy, as well as all current lists of banned written materials, is under review for appropriate revisions. This process will include … examining our current lists to determine the reasons why particular publications were banned.”
The review in New Jersey is a result of lobbying by the ACLU, which argues that banning books and other materials is a violation of inmates’ First Amendment rights. “The DOC should recognize that banning certain magazines in their entirety raises additional legal concerns,” Tess Borden, staff attorney of the ACLU of New Jersey, told Unfiltered. “If a prison wanted to ban Wine Spectator—or Wine Spectacular—at all, it would presumably have to review each issue for objectionable content to comport with the DOC’s own regulations and the First Amendment.”