Are you a prisoner in Pennsylvania? Then you’re in luck! You can buy a King James Bible for the low, low price of $7.95.
But if you’re looking for a copy of the Qur’an, too bad. Those are $21.20. And it’s even more expensive for a prayer rug.
In an article for the PA Post, Joseph Darius Jaafari writes about the discrepancy between various religious items that inmates may want to access.
The prices for both texts are fairly steep, considering that many religious organizations would give the books to prisoners for free, and lower-cost editions are easily found (a trip to a Harrisburg discount store found Bibles and Qurans on sale for less than $2).
PA Post’s review also found a marked price disparity between Christian texts and those used by other faiths. Across the commissary menus analyzed, Qurans are priced as much as three times more than Bibles. Other religious items, such as Catholic rosaries, are sold for dramatically less money than Muslim prayer beads. Prayer rugs that are sold in religious stores for less than $12 cost prisoners, on average, $24.
For religious advocates, the price disparity points to a larger problem they’ve noticed anecdotally — preferential treatment for Christian inmates.
Some prison chaplains are able to provide religious materials for free, but there are more Christian chaplains than Muslim or non-denominational ones. So the problem still exists. And that may be a violation of the law since there shouldn’t be a non-Christian penalty, so to speak, for prisoners.
The prison wardens say they have nothing to do with this. They’re just working off of what the state tells them to do:
… the county jails don’t set the prices. Multiple wardens, including Adams County Warden Katy Hileman, said they have no control over commissary prices. Keefe Group in St. Louis, Missouri, manages the commissary for many prisons and jails in Pennsylvania.
Multiple messages sent to Keefe’s media team over the past two weeks were not returned.
Whatever’s going on, it’s a lawsuit waiting to happen if it’s not fixed.
(Image via Shutterstock)