Prisoners in Texas can't read the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Color Purple or the best-selling Freakonomics; some of the works of Hunter S. Thompson or a collection of Shakespearean sonnets; or books from the Where's Waldo series, The Simpsons, and Monty Python. They can, however, read Hitler's Mein Kampf and On National Socialism and World Relations, two books by former KKK grand wizard David Duke, and The Holy Book of Adolf Hitler, which is called "the Bible of neo-Nazism." The Dallas Morning News recently received the Department of Public Safety's lists of 248,281 approved books and 10,073 banned books for Texas prisons. Now some are decrying the subjective manner in which books are banned—or the banning of books at all.
"It think this is just another form of punishment because they get to pick and choose what books they let in," an exonerated former death row inmate tells the Houston Chronicle
. State guidelines say books can be banned for having instructions on making weapons or drugs, information on rioting or striking in prison, "graphic presentations" of illegal sex acts, sexually explicit images, instructions for committing crimes, or the capacity for hiding contraband. Initial decisions on banning books are made by prison mailroom employees, which can lead to arbitrary applications of the guidelines. For example, The Count of Monte Cristo
and Escape From Alcatraz
are approved despite depicting prison escapes both fictional and real, but Freakonomics
is out for discussing crack dealing.
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