Monday, April 26, 2010
Texas Prison Literature
"But ask how many of those books and magazines have been rejected because prison reviewers decided they contain inappropriate content, and prison officials will tell you that information is unavailable: 'There's just no way to break that out,' said Tammy Shelby, a program specialist for the prison agency's Mail System Coordinators Panel. ... Novels by National Book Award Winners Pete Dexter, Joyce Carol Oates, Annie Proulx and William T. Vollmann have been banned in recent years. Award finalists Katherine Dunn and Barry Hannah are on the Texas no-read list, too, as are Pulitzer Prize winners Alice Walker, Robert Penn Warren and John Updike. ... Books of paintings by some of the world's greatest artists--da Vinci, Picasso, Boticelli, Michaelangelo--have been ordered out of state correctional facilitiies. ... John Grisham has had four blockbusters banned since 2005. And inmates will have to wait for parole before diving into 'Precious,' the book by Sapphire that last year was turned into a critically acclaimed movie. ... Inmates who don't read, for example, have a harder time finding jobs, said Marc Levin, a criminal justice analyst for the Texas Public Policy foundation. 'Literacy, or lack of it, is one of the biggest problems we have with respect to re-entry,' Levin said. Texas prison officials said restrictions on reading material are for the good of both guards and inmates, 'We have to protect the safety and security of our institution, but also aid in the rehabilition of our offenders,' said Jason Clark, an agency spokesman. 'And what may not be judged inflamatory in the public at large can be inflamatory in prison.' ... 'There is no evidence concluding that exposure to obscene material affects the morals or attitudes of prisoners,' said Robert Bastress, a professor at the West Virginia University College of Law, who in 2004 represented an inmate who sued when the prison library was cleansed of all materials considered 'a turn-on.' ... Even with appeals, [Paul] Wright said, 'there doesn't seem to be any real review going on.' In 2005, mailroom staffers flagged Freakonomics,' the best-selling popular economics book, for its use of a 50-year-old quote containing a racial epithet in a chapter about the Ku Klux Klan. That decision was upheld. ... Thus, National Geographic magazines are turned away for photos of naked toddlers", Eric Dexheimer at the Austin American, 31 January 2010, link:
It's good the TDCJ is hard at work. It bans prisoners having Texas maps. Why? They could be used to facilitate an escape. Really. Until you've had contact with "criminal justice professionals" you can't believe how stupid they can be.