Monday, August 20, 2007

Words are dangerous things: Jackie Robinson too subversive for TDCJ reading list

If the pen is mightier than the sword, then words must truly be dangerous things.

Which must explain why the Texas Department of Criminal Justice wouldn't let death row inmate Kenneth Foster read a book on sports history that quoted Jackie Robinson, author David Zirin writes in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram ("Are words dangerous?," Aug. 19). TDCJ informed Zirin that his book"contains material that a reasonable person would construe as written solely for the purpose of communicating information designed to achieve the breakdown of prisons through offender disruption such as strikes or riots." Here's the offending passage from Robinson:

On Page 44, the radioactive quote in question was from that seditious revolutionary Jackie Robinson -- you know, the guy whose number is retired by all of Major League Baseball. I quoted Robinson's autobiography, I Never Had It Made, when he wrote about suffering racism early in his rookie season:

"I felt tortured and I tried to just play ball and ignore the insults. But it was really getting to me. ... For one wild and rage-crazed moment I thought, 'To hell with Mr. Rickey's "noble experiment." ... To hell with the image of the patient black freak I was supposed to create.' I could throw down my bat, stride over to that Phillies dugout, grab one of those white sons of [expletive] and smash his teeth in with my despised black fist. Then I could walk away from it all."

The other verboten passage made an historical reference to race riots in the US after Jack Johnson became the first black man to win the heavyweight boxing title.

I wonder what other titles have been denied by TDCJ on such flimsy grounds? These "Publication review/denial notification" forms sound like a good topic for an open records request, don't they? If Jackie Robinson and Jack Johnson don't make the cut, it makes me wonder what other history or ideas TDCJ thinks it's too dangerous for inmates to learn about.

As mentioned previously, there's a rally in Austin at the capitol tomorrow opposing Foster's execution, which is scheduled to take place at the end of this month.


Anonymous said...

Green Fried Tomatoes did not make it through the eagle eye of TDCJ either. It had racial issues in it. Well, duh, racial issues have been a part of our history for years. I guess that means that Gone With the Wind can't be in a Texas prison either.

On that note...taking soft porn out of our male dominated prison system is ridiculous. I would much rather think an inmate is masturbating to a picture than a female guard.

I'm trying figure out which denomination of so-called Christians is deciding what is good for our prisoners. Any ideas??

Anonymous said...

The movie "Giant" also has a racial theme. Did the book make the cut? Is there a published list of books that are denied or is the decision made upon a whim?

I would like to know who decides and if the decisions ever reviewed and updated?

Anonymous said...

Anything that has racial overtones or has passages in the book about escape, gets the boot. Silence of the lambs is on the banned list. Dirty white boys is on the list. I have heard that ALL of stephen King's books are on the list.

Anonymous said...

I've managed to get a couple of Stephen King books in. My suggestion is to call TDCJ before sending any book other than the Hardy Boys and Bobbsey Twins.

Anonymous said...

We've been ok with Stephen King, but a couple of John Grisham's have been refused. Yes there is a list, but they would rather people call the unit and ask instead (dont know why, you'd think they'd have enough to dowith sorting the mail).