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Texas Prisoners Can Read Hitler, but Not Jon Stewart

State's scattershot book censorship in prisons has come under fire from civil rights groups
By Daniel Kay,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 29, 2016 1:11 PM CDT
Texas Prisoners Can Read Hitler, but Not Jon Stewart
An inmate studies at a prison library.   (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)

It's Banned Books Week, literature's annual celebration of the books that have challenged social order and standards over the years. When you think of banned books, you probably think of school reading lists, but book censorship can be even worse in prison. Texas' penitentiary system, the largest in the US, prohibits prisoners from reading more than 15,000 separate books, the Observer reports. The policy is supposed to prevent prisoners from reading books containing information on how to commit crimes or manufacture controlled substances, any information on prison riots, or certain sexually explicit material, the Washington Post reports.

On the banned list? Friday Night Lights, Jon Stewart's America (the Book), the poetry of Langston Hughes, even some Shakespearean sonnets. But Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler's infamous screed, is allowed. The reason for the odd bans? Prison mailroom workers must review every book sent to the prison, and they're encouraged to "quickly identify a reason to censor a book to avoid reading the rest of the book." This can be as little as a single usage of a racial slur (which is what got Friday Night Lights banned), regardless of context; for example, a depiction of rape gets the classic The Color Purple on the banned list. (Read more books stories.)

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