Saturday, May 15, 2010

Texas prisoners can't read Texas prison history

The Statesman's Eric Dexheimer reports on the latest dustup over banned books at TDCJ:

The New York Times called it "an important reckoning." "A gripping history lesson," an Associated Press book reviewer declared.

"Anyone interested in America's prison system should read it," concluded The Dallas Morning News assessment of "Texas Tough," a new book covering the history of the state's corrections system.

One group with a natural interest in the subject has yet to crack the book's cover, however: Texas prisoners themselves. In March, mailroom handlers assigned to review incoming literature at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's James A. Lynaugh Unit in Fort Stockton judged a short passage in the opening chapter of "Texas Tough" about a girl's childhood molestation to be inappropriate for prisoners to read.

"My book gets banned because of indecency with a child?" said Robert Perkinson, the University of Hawaii American Studies professor who wrote the book. "The section is about how a huge portion of prisoners were abused themselves as children."

Prison officials confirm that Perkinson's book is on the agency's no-read list, which includes thousands of titles, among them some acclaimed literature and classic art.
Judging books by such a strict standard, it's hard to understand how the Bible gets in: It's got its share of escape-prone prisoners, underage brides and other subjects that seem to get authors into trouble.

10 comments:

sunray's wench said...

We've been here before. Until Texas has open government and open government bodies to enforce it, TDCJ andministration can do what it likes with no accountability at all. Where is Senator Whitmire's indignantion when we need it?

Gloria Rubac said...

I ordered Texas Tough for my friend on Texas' death row and it was denied by the mail room. Since I had also ordered one for myself, I now have two copies. I wonder if Senator Whitmire would like to borrow a copy and then let us know what is up with such stupid censorship. Wish TDCJ would so readily censor the degrading and racist violence of their guards.

Anonymous said...

I sent a book to my friend and she was not allowed to have it. It was a teenagers book on relationships I thought she would enjoy reading. The reason it was denied was there is a chapter on rape in it. The chapter covers avoidance, how to avoid being a victim of rape, what to do if you are raped and how to report being raped. Now I wonder why they would not want a young woman to have this knowledge. I know why. Maybe they do not want them to have that awareness even though the state of Texas mandates all of its state employees to attend this type of training. I wonder if they are trying to keep the offender ignorant or hiding something. It seems to me that the Texas Department of Corrections would actually issue each woman entering the prison system this book. Looks like they are trying to hide something again just like the guards who got caught in 2009 with their hands in the cookie jar. They can not have The Largest Hotel Chain in the State of Texas either maybe because it tells tales of "WUPPIN" or the fake meat no one could eat or using real people for dog training. So much for freedom of the press. I have had to deal with some of these guards before and I always think how can anybody walk out of there rehabilitated. All I can see is complete contempt when you leave Department of Corrections. So nothing that happens in there surprises me anymore. It is ashame the way people are treated in there.

Kerry said...

I recently had books I sent to a family member returned also--at that family member's expense, which they could ill afford--John Grisham's "The Brethren" because it mentioned a crime, and "Precious" because it mentioned incest. Grits has an excellent point in that the Bible is chok-full of incest, underage marriage, violence against children, etc. Why is that ok?

When I was in SAFP, we had to submit song lyrics to the staff for approval to use in our nightly required "Family" group (there was no actual family involved--WE were the "family"). This group was supposed to show us how to have "fun" in sobriety. The criteria for selection was extremely strict--no songs about love, relationships, anger, sadness, violence, and so on--basically, anything any adult oriented song might be about. This left us every night singing nothing but nursery rhymes (seriously) and hymns (Christian only). We sang "the green grass grows all around", "baby shark", "the wheels on the bus" and other infant favorites ad nauseum, as well as evangelical hits, while inmate "expediters" patrolled the area looking for anyone who was not clapping and singing with proper enthusiasm so they could be written up for "refusal to comply with treatment". It made no difference if you were Jewish, for example, and were not comfortable belting out songs about Jesus--it was do it or get written up and "detained" there for a few extra weeks.

It's time to treat inmates as the adult human beings they are. Restricting them to only the blandest of literature helps nothing and no one.

sunray's wench said...

Perhaps when a book is denied, inmates should send it to Senator Whitmire's office? That might get his attention. If they have to send it somewhere, it may as well be to him.

Anonymous said...

It would be nice if you had the money to send the same copy of the book to a Senator but these books cost more money from the vendors than if you bought it yourself in a store but family members are not trusted to send anything. I have bought the same books over and over again because they were taken away from my love one under the improperly stored excuse. I think it was because some one wanted to take them home with them at no cost to them for their family members to have.

Charles said...

I spent twenty (20) straight years in TDC. While there I earned three (3) Associates degrees and came 15 hours from a fourth, a Bachelors degree in Management. But let me say this, obtaing my education in TDC was like climbing Mt Everest with the US Army trying to stop you from getting to the top. TDC makes it very difficult for you get an education. They do not want an educated prison population. Prison administrators feel threatened by anyone who obtains a college degree. I once had a retiring Lt. that I had gotten to know fairly well tell me during discussion on this subjuect why the system has that attitude. He actually told me that the reason they do it is because a dumbed down prisoner is easier to control than one who's eyes are open. can you believe that? Thats why a lot of men leave prison uneducated and with few or no job skills at all. So I am not surprised that they would deny the book in question into the system.

sunray's wench said...

Charles, I've often wondered how inmates gain their qualifications in subjects like art history or biology, when TDCJ denies anything showing intimate body parts. You have to wonder, if it was good enough to go on church ceilings, why isn't it good enough to go inside a TDCJ prison?

outlaw's princess said...

The reason the bible gets in, is because Texas in in the "bible belt", pure and simple. an educated offender is dangerous, that's the reason TDCJ wants to keep them stupid. They have NO social skills when they come home. For most the "free world" is too stressful and scary. The everyday stresses we deal with out here in the free world, they can't deal with. They can't make decisions like we do. They are told when to get up, when to go to bed, what to eat, when to eat it, and how long they can take to eat it. They are told when to take a shower, how long they can take that shower.They are only allowed to wear white. Does TDCJ think that if the offenders wear white, they will turn in to angels???? My husband was released almost 3 months ago, and he refuses to wear ANYTHING white. He is getting better at decision making skills, but he still has problems in the social skills department. He can't find a job, because no one will hire him, because he is an ex-offender. How in the He## is he suspose to support his family if he can't even get a job!!!!!!! The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is nothing more than a wearhouse with a relvolving front door. Don't even get me started on the banned books......

Charlie O said...

Having had experience with this, all I can say is that the people reviewing books at TDCJ units are mostly likely morons and high school dropouts or both. This is who is reviewing literature for the state of Texas.