Listen to this article

Officials at the state prison in Danville made the right decision to return the titles.

Whenever the word censorship crops up, people get agitated.

That certainly was the case when it became known that officials at the state prison in Danville removed about 200 titles from the University of Illinois’ Education Justice Project.

Apparently, officials at the prison removed books related to black history. They explained their action by saying they intended to conduct further reviews of the material, but that EJP officials removed boxes containing the books before they could do so.

That may well be the case. But how much review do books like “Race Matters” by Cornel West or “Up From Slavery” by Booker T. Washington require?

It’s certainly the case that there were more controversial titles among those that were removed. But it’s hardly uncommon for libraries, even prison libraries, to carry a wide variety of books on a wide variety of subjects.

It’s a matter of law that prison inmates have few, if any, constitutional rights. They lose those when they lose their freedom as a consequence of being convicted of crimes and incarcerated.

So prison administrators are well within their authority to keep an eye out for what a prison spokeswoman called “disapproved publications.”

What that consists of in a prison context probably is more complicated than it might appear at first blush to people on the outside looking in.

Nonetheless, prison officials admitted they mishandled the issue over the missing books. Now it seems clear they are taking a new approach that eliminates unwise and arbitrary decisions.

That’s good for the inmates enrolled in this college-in-prison program and no harm to the employees who work there.