Prentiss County, Mississippi Jail requires all inmates to have a Bible, regardless of faith

Matt Staggs sez, "Jews, Muslims, Hindus and non-religious types who just like to read: you're out of luck at the Prentiss County Jail. You can have three books, but one of those MUST be the Bible."
Property List


The Prentiss County Sheriff's Department Protecting and Serving the citizens of Prentiss County Mississippi (Thanks, Matt, via Submitterator)



        I apologize for the all caps, it’s just that the incredulity has broken my ability to abstain.

    1. The spinning cross is a nice touch. I wonder if there is one atop the cruiser for the “Chaplain Ride-along”.

  1. They also offer a Chaplin Ride-along! What a wonderful service! No doubt this was in response to the popularity of the police ride-along. The sheriff probably thought:

    “If our citizens like to ride with one branch of the government, why not give them an opportunity to ride with the other branch.”

  2. Can you bring a book from lulu?
    What about if you handwrite from the internet into a selfbound book?
    I think the publishing companies (especially the ones who publish the bible) are in cahoots with someone…!

    I wonder if the Bible has to be in English (its original language, of course)?

  3. I have no idea how you complete the fifth instruction. As far as I know, there’s only one White Sox. Not even a single pair, much less three of them.

    1. The instruction is for “white pairs of Sox”, not “pairs of White Sox”. As such, each prisoner must bring with them 6 baseball players (in pairs, of course) who are:
      1) either current or former members of the White Sox or Red Sox baseball organizations, and
      2) of the Caucasian persuasion.

      Simple enough to carry out, really.

      1. Would it work if I tried to possess three Caucasian pairs from the infamous black sox Chicago team?

    1. “Sox” is used only in reference to a few baseball teams which have their names spelled that way. It may be a colloquialism that survived in the back woods.

      I wonder if you could fake them out with three Kindles?

  4. Hmm…I wonder if they will give you a beat down if you bring something like “The Writer’s Bible” or any of the tomes that use “bible” to describe their general utility?


    I’m shocked to find blatant spelling errors coming from a department with this policy.

  6. One hopes the poor sods at least get access to a decent in-house library. Prison libraries should be at least as good as university libraries. How else will convicts emerge improved?

    1. What amazing country are you from where convicts ‘improve’?
      This is like high school for convicts, where you can learn all the tiny, dirty tricks. If they get lucky, they might graduate to prison; a free ride of anti-social education!

      A lightheartedness aside, it is here where the Gutenberg Bible stops being a historical curiosity and become a great prop for incarcerated hi-jinx.

  7. A “Chaplin” ride-along? I’m intrigued. I’ve always wanted to do a ride-along with the decomposing corpse of a silent film star.

  8. It’s too bad they didn’t get someone who reads and writes standard English to proofread their website copy.

  9. It doesn’t say ‘The Holy Bible’. So you ought to be able to go along with The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, or John Kennedy O’Toole’s “The Neon Bible”, or “The Baseball Coaching Bible”, or …

    Or perhaps you could get a really huge blackletter Bible.

    Mind you, it’s probably not too smart to start your prison sentence by pissing off a bunch of vengeful zealots who have control over every aspect of your life for the next however-many years.

  10. Jews, Hindus, Muslims, and non-religious types have more of an advantage than Christians here: It’s easier for them to receive a reduced sentence by finding Jesus and turning their lives around.

    Joking. :) Partly.

  11. Whoever designed that site should be imprisoned and allowed only a dictionary and the Chicago Manual of Style.

  12. I live in this hellish state and am not surprised by a bit of it. I am sure they truly think that socks are spelled SOX. The bible is the first law here, man’s law is second. The bible here is open to interpretation ONLY by a qualified evangelical preacher. You are expected to attend church twice a week to worship jeebus, god and holy spirits are just bonus points. The old testament does not count unless you need to refer to Sodom & Gammorah and apocrypha is downright heretical. Jews are tolerated almost as well as catholics. Catholics are barely tolerated. Buddhism and Hinduism are fairytales that are only believed by little yellow people. Muslims are planning on blowing up the local Wal-Mart. Atheists and Agnostics are all gay. Homosexuality is illegal and only exists in California anyway.
    I hate this place. It is backward. Anybody that wants to save me from here, let me know. I am a Graphic/Design, Marketing guy who Project Manages large industrial construction….please…help…

    1. No pun intended, Anon, but you’re preaching to the choir. I live in Mississippi, too, and I hate it. As soon as I find someone to buy my house (unlikely with the economy in shambles – thanks, Dubya!)I’m outta here.

  13. What about pants? I just got a really bad visual image of inmates marching about, (bible in-hand) wearing nothing but T-Shirts, underwear, and “soxs”.

  14. Site design and Hosting by Gadget

    Copyright Gadget Inc. 1996 – 2008

    I wonder how it works. Shouldn’t the Sheriff’s Department have the copyright to their own beautiful website?

  15. Matthew 5:29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

    Good prison reading for sure.

  16. The best way to create atheists is to give them bibles. Make the other two books Bertrand Russell and Robert Ingersoll and you’ve got a nice 3-book package. Maybe Amazon will bundle these three at a special price!

  17. What exactly is wrong with supplying every prisoner with a bible? It’s strong, soft and thoroughly absorbent.

    1. It’s strong, soft and thoroughly absorbent.

      Not if you have a compact pocket edition with onionskin pages. That’s what my old man used to call John Wayne Toilet Paper: it’s rough, tough, and won’t take shit from nobody.

      As for the pairs of White Sox, only a smartarse would show up arm-in-arm with Dick Padden and Clark Griffith. Those gentlemen were White Stockings, and as such would clearly be disallowed as excessively effeminate lingerie.

  18. So…apparently you get NO PANTS, but you have to have a Bible? Pants are definitely missing from that list.

    And just WTF are “sox”? Maybe that’s a new term for pants that I’m not aware of.

    (Okay, since the internet cannot convey that I am being sarcastic, I just want to point out that I know what “sox” are and am just being snarky about spelling).

  19. “Sox” is uncommon yet perfectly acceptable (and indeed delightful and historical) American English.

    Lower your snooty raised noses! There are plenty of things to complain about here besides a perfectly good word!

    1. yeah, and one look at his Yahoo calendar explains why he’s so excited about making sure everyone has a Bible:

      “Mish work” and “Mish work payday” stand out pretty clearly there. Given Deputy Dave’s interesting take on spelling and punctuation, I can only surmise that “mish” is an affectionate term for “missionary”.

      1. I can only surmise that “mish” is an affectionate term for “missionary”.
        Thats my favourite position.

  20. They also offer a Chaplin Ride-along! What a wonderful service!

    I’m holding out for the Valentino reacharound.

  21. I’m a Catholic and this crap embarrasses the hell out of me. Nothing in the creed requires this sort of throat-cramming. Nothing. Of course, I’m guessing in Mississippi, I’ll be choosing from a list that includes precisely one version – the KJV — of the Bible.

    That said, I’m going to ask for the Compact OED, since not only does it contain everything a human could want to know (in jigsaw form), it can be used effectively in a brawl.

  22. A Jew might be ok with the Bible as long as it was a Jewish or Hebrew Bible (see, e.g., JPS Jewish Bible). On the other hand, I can’t see telling the Prentiss County Sheriff, “I don’t want the Bible you’re handing out I only want the real Bible….”


    since the word “bible” means “book”, redundant sentence is redundant.

    3 books, one of these books must be a book.
    um…ok? can the other 2 books be a hacksaw and length of rope?

    1. “since the word “bible” means “book””

      I thought Bible meant “books”, as in the 24 books.

  24. Well if your stuck in there for 5 y ears what better thing to do with your time that find every contradiction and fallacy in some anthology of short stories.

    Damn Mississippi is my first duty station.

  25. It occurs to me that there is probably a market out there for various books bound in “HOLY BIBLE” covers. Or if that doesn’t work, a cover that reads “NEWSPEAK DICTIONARY.”

  26. I just talked on the phone to the jail and someone else at the sheriff’s office … she verified that the web-site in question is in fact their own web-site. She took my number and told me the sheriff would give me a call back. Apparently he “would have talked to me” right then, but he was “in circuit court” when I called.

    Defending an ACLU lawsuit, we can hope?

  27. i heard that the bible is the only book with thin enough paper that the pages can be used for rolling prison cigarettes. mmmmm…tea from a tea bag + scrapings from a nicotine patch, all rolled up in a page of the bible. holy smokes!

  28. It appears to be a list of things you CAN have.

    So you could have 0, 1, or 2 books that do not include a bible. You might also choose to forgo the “sox.”

    I guess glasses-wearers are SOL.

    One could interpret “off the internet” as “offline”, and therefore, any books you have *must* been printed from a device connected to the internet.

  29. Based on the experience of a friend, I’d say that this is the list of things you can get from the outside. The jumpsuit, writing paper, toiletries, etc. would be supplied by the jail. Eyeglasses and similar would come in with the inmate. Also, I think this is probably a very short-term facility since it’s run by the sheriff and not the state.

    I have wondered about how jails handle CPAP machines. Does someone make special ones in clear cases?

  30. Sheriff Tolar just told me he’ll change it!!

    He called me back in something like 1/2 an hour. Says, first of all, that the web-site was probably a “miscommunication” of the actual jail policy – he claims that the jail would have permitted a total of two books which were non-religious in nature, plus one additional religious book of any sort: a Bible, a Koran, etc. etc.

    I told him that from my point of view that policy was unconstitutional and that the number of books permitted in the jail ought not be determined by whether one of them was religious in nature at all.

    He said that he saw my point and would change the policy. He says that his office has pre-printed forms which reflect the 2 books + 1 religious book policy and that his county likely cannot afford the cost of re-printing those forms: we discussed correcting the policy on the offending forms by having someone hand-write on them, and he indicated that would likely be the way the office would go.

    All in all, he was quite reasonable and pleasant. And very responsive to someone who was calling from Minnesota and clearly not a constituant.

    He did not commit to exactly how he will fix the policy – e.g., by permitting three books regardless of religious nature, by permitting only two books total in any case, etc. We discussed both options as things which I felt would be constitutionally permissible and he seemed to feel he could make a change which would solve the problem.

    1. How ’bout that!

      You saw a problematic situation, and sought to fix it.

      The sheriff heard your concerns, considered them, and promised to rectify the situation.

      Let’s consider for a moment how this approach might be applicable to many of today’s other problematic situations.

      In the meantime, Dube, I wanna buy you a beverage and shake your hand.

      And maybe I’ll ship Sheriff Tolar a case of Dublin Dr Pepper for his response, too. I can think of no greater reward for such unexpected reasonableness.

    2. Looks like Sheriff Tolar was true to his word. The site now lists “3 BOOKS” with no mention of religious texts, Bible or otherwise.

      I notice they’ve corrected the spelling of “sox” as well.

  31. Scene: checkin, MS jail

    Gaurd: “heres your toilet paper, fish.”

    Inmate: “no, sir, I;m ok for a while.”

    (picks up bible, flips through pages, smiles and walks away.)

    End Scene.

  32. well, one thing books are good for in jail/prison is a pillow.

    the bigger the book, the better the pillow.

    Steven King’s books are highly coveted.

  33. Now I think about it, there’s a market here for the “Prisoner’s Omnibus”. A large collection of books in a single bound volume.

  34. Sorry.

    All I can say is, Welcome to the deep south. All of our government web pages are from the late 80’s, and Christianity is the only “real” religion.

    I’m actually very surprised that the Sheriff is changing the policy. That’s a rare Mississippian.

    Still, the idea that ANY religious text is a requirement ruffles my feathers.

    I wonder how long he’ll stick to this. Will a satanist get to hang on to his preferred religious text? Do scientoligist get just one book, or will they have access to the complete works of L. Ron Hubbard? Can an atheist keep a copy of “A Brief History of Time”?

  35. That website needs to be fixed still. It’s about as unholy as things can get. The horror, the horror… *takes out bottle of bleach to clean eyes with*

  36. Mississippi is candy assing it. Here in Alabama, it must be a King James Bible and it’s the only reading material allowed.

  37. Ah, yes, The Bible. Because nothing will reform a criminal quite so effectively as being bored to tears.

  38. “Deputy Dave” is likely the same person the web designer’s domain is registered, who is currently a Deputy and posting videos on YouTube. I thought for sure I was going to find someone who had taken a physical retirement, but nope. Active duty.

  39. I went to high school in Mississippi, and I remember looking at the list of courses offered by a local community college some time around 2002. The “Religion” section consisted of exactly two courses: “Old Testament” and “New Testament”.

  40. A bit late for new suggestions, but how about a bible (with a high number of in the best case square pages) and two good books about origami?

  41. method=”post” action=”jail.aspx”
    I hate to think what happens if I do a POST on that form.

  42. They might want to reconsider that policy. It didn’t work out too well for the warden at Shawshank.

  43. Without knowing more about these individuals, I don’t want to paint this Sheriff or others with an overly broad brush… but…

    It’s important to understand the role that southern sheriffs (and their jails) played in the period from the end of the Civil War through the middle of the 20th century. Check out:

    It’s an extraordinary piece of American history that we (at least we Americans) all need to have a clear grasp of. If you’ve ever wondered why Rev. Jerimiah Wright and other, older African-Americans seem, well, totally freaked out, it’s because they grew up in, and were raised by generations who had very, very good reasons to be terrified of the “white”-controlled system. Some extraordinarily evil things were going on throughout the south from the end of Reconstruction through roughly WWII, and, sadly, local sheriffs were key players in all of it.

    I guess it’s a sign of progress that we’re worried about these sheriffs imposing their religion on prisoners, rather than worrying about they selling the prisoners into slavery, where they would be worked to death and dumped in the woods in shallow graves. See? There’s a positive spin to be put on everything!

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