Department of Corrections reviewing prison library offerings following allegations that Steven Hayes read violent books prior to the Cheshire murders [Capitol Watch]

March 21, 2011

By Daniela Altimari
Capitol Watch
Story as it appeared on the Hartford Courant’s Capitol Watch Blog on March 21, 2011

Following allegations that convicted killer Steven Hayes read books in prison containing graphic scenes of violence and murder, the state Department of Corrections has launched a review of the books available to inmates in prison libraries.

State lawmakers were considering a bill that would have set new rules as to what books would be available in prison libraries, but Corrections Commissioner Leo C. Arnone told lawmakers at a legislative hearing this morning that the department is already in the midst of establishing such a policy. Arnone said he expects the process to be completed by July 1.

“I’m not sure whether were going to actually need this bill…if you’re doing this already,” said state Sen. John Kissel, the Enfield Republican who drafted the bill.

Arnone said the new rules will be based on guidelines issued by the federal Bureau of Prisons. Each correctional facility will establish a committee to review the reading material available in that prison’s library and determine whether it is appropriate for the inmates housed there. Most of the books in the state’s prison libraries are donated, Arnone added.

The issue of prison reading material became the subject of a public policy discussion after a list of Hayes’ reading material was obtained by lawyers representing his co-defendant, Joshua Komisarjevsky.

According to a motion filed by Komisarjevsky’s lawyers, those books include: David Baldacci’s “Split Second,” Dale Brown’s “Battle Born,” Diane Guest’s “Lullaby,” Colin Harrison’s “Manhattan Nocturne,” Greg Iles’ “Mortal Fear,” Jonathan Kellerman’s “Twisted,” Rochelle Krich’s “Dead Air,” Barbara Parker’s “Blood Relations,” James Patterson’s “1st to Die” and “Violets are Blue,” Ridley Pearson’s “Beyond Recognition,” Whitney Strieber’s “Unholy Fire” and Stephen White’s “Harm’s Way.”

“We’ve had that issue come up recently because information came out regarding different books that Mr. Hayes apparently had access to that depict graphic violence, especially violence against women,” Kissel said. “To be honest, some of it’s pretty scary as far as being very similar to what took place in Cheshire and God only knows what the connections may or may not be.”

Hayes was convicted last year and sentenced to death for his role in the murders of a mother and her two daughters in a brutal home invasion in Cheshire.
“While I acknowledge inmates do have rights that are clearly defined and protected by the courts,” Kissel said, “it seems to me inappropriate that an inmate that has violent propensities would have access to books that graphically depict violence.”