Avid Bookshop, an independent, community-based bookstore located in Athens, Georgia is challenging the constitutionality of the Gwinnett County Jail’s mail policy that bars Avid and other physical bookstores from shipping books to Jail residents.

Avid has a protected First Amendment right to communicate with residents at the Gwinnett County Jail. But under the Jail’s current policy, book shipments from Avid are automatically returned, unopened, on the ground that Avid is not an “authorized retailer” approved by the Jail.

The Jail says the policy is necessary to avoid the introduction of contraband into the facility. But the Jail has no criteria or standards for designating authorized retailers and no process for booksellers to apply to become one. According to Jail officials, only Amazon and sometimes Barnes & Noble have been “authorized” to send books.

Represented by the University of Georgia’s First Amendment Clinic and civil rights attorney Zack Greenamyre, Avid is challenging the Jail’s policy as an unconstitutional prior restraint and permitting scheme that violates the First Amendment.

In July 2024, Avid opposed the Jail defendants’ motion to dismiss the complaint.

To date, the case has been advanced by students Alex Klein, Madi Blair, Alex Cross, Patrick Johnson, and Clinic fellows Allyson Veile and Ashley Fox, working under the supervision of Clinic director Clare Norins.

Related news reports: Law360, Georgia Public Broadcasting, Atlanta News First, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Fox 5 Atlanta

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Free Speech

The First Amendment protects the right of private individuals to engage in speech and expression without being censored or punished by the government because of their viewpoint. While the government may constitutionally regulate the time, place, and manner of private speech in public forums it must do so in a viewpoint-neutral manner and, depending on…

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