Sunday, January 31, 2010

Classics, serious literature included on TDCJ's reading ban list

Eric Dexheimer at the Austin Statesman examined the 5,000 book titles rejected by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice over the last five years and says "Texas prisoners are missing out on some fine reading." A notable excerpt from the story reads:

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.

Prisoners can't peruse certain books by Pablo Neruda and Andre Gide, both Nobel laureates. "Krik? Krak!" by Haitian writer Edwidge Danticat, who last year won a MacArthur "genius" grant, is prohibited behind Lone Star bars. Books of paintings by some of the world's greatest artists — da Vinci, Picasso, Botticelli, Michelangelo — have been ordered out of state correctional facilities.

And just because a book is a best-seller in the free world doesn't mean it's available on the inside. Harold Robbins, Pat Conroy, Hunter S. Thompson, Dave Barry and James Patterson belong to the don't-read fraternity. Mystery writer Carl Hiaasen does, too, as do Kinky Friedman and Janet Fitch, whose "White Oleander" was an Oprah's Book Club selection.

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.

Political connections don't seem to count for much, either. Her father may have been governor and president, but Jenna Bush's "Ana's Story: A Journey of Hope" made the banned list in November 2008.


Charlie O said...

Should this be a surprise to anyone? Considering that Texas is governed by anti-intellectual troglodytes, why would anyone within Texas governance want offenders hitting the streets more intelligent than the gatekeepers. It bodes well for the Texas prison industry to keep their charges ignorant and uninformed. If you let them read something other than scripture, they may actually go forth and do something with their lives. Keeping the inmates dumbed down, means keeps the revolving door turning and those in power, employed.

Hook Em Horns said...

It would seem to me that Texas officers could spend there time better looking for contraband than dirty books.

Anonymous said...

Charlie O is right, Texas denies prisoners any programs or benefits to improve themselves. Texas also does everything it can to ensure that x-prisoners have no opprotunities to improve themselves once they are released.

Every prisoner should receive a college education, then the recidivism rate would truly go down. Of course so would the prison budget! Our society would be far better off with a rehabilitation rather than the current lock em up and throw away the key approach.

Anonymous said...

This is news? Who cares? Yet another good reason to follow the law and not get sent to prison. Then you can go to the library and read whatever you want! Good grief! I've heard it all now!

ckikerintulia said...

Scott, many of these same books have been banned in Texas schools. Not every attempted ban in the schools is successful. See ACLU's banned book lists from year to year.

Charlie O said...

I would like to amend my earlier comment I forgot about folks like Anon. 1:15. Texas is governed and POPULATED with ignorant troglodytes.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if them mean ol' Scrooges at TDCJ also prevent the poor inmates from watching HBO, Cinemax or pay per view events! Or let them eat prime steaks and have Blue Bell for dessert! Could a federal civil rights lawsuit be in the offing? Too bad Judge Justice is deceased!

RAS said...

Charlie O are you one of the populace? I doubt the gov has any input in the book list, but I don't see why Grisham would be banned. I don't know the other authors but the list seems rediculous. Who does decide what is banned and what are his or her qualifictions for having this authority? The reason they don't put inmates thru college is because the state can't afford free college for all of Texas' kids. If convicted predators are given free college then my law abiding kids damn sure better get it free too.

Charlie O said...


No, I no longer reside in Texas. I put Texas in the rear view mirror 4-1/2 years ago. Never looked back, very happy to no longer live there. I do, however, unfortunately have to travel to Texas regularly. I have family still stuck there. They are trying leave as well.

Don said...

Apparently anon 1:15/4:13 is a victim of book-banning somewhere; can't fathom that kind of ignorance otherwise.

Anonymous said...

I also no longer reside in Texas and don't miss it. The way things are going eventually there will be only 2 groups of people in the state. 1. Law enforcement. 2. Inmates.

Hook Em Horns said...

Anonymous said...

I also no longer reside in Texas and don't miss it. The way things are going eventually there will be only 2 groups of people in the state. 1. Law enforcement. 2. Inmates.

1/31/2010 08:06:00 PM
We are well on the way! A-MEN!!!!

sunray's wench said...

This is something that more people should be asking questions, publicly, about. Not only why are so many books banned, but why is the procedure for doing it so shrouded in mystery.

Why is no one ever accountable within TDCJ? I would like to hear from someone in a position to make the rules for TDCJ exactly how they justify banning the works of such highly regarded writers and artists.

Anonymous said...

Sunray's Wench,
I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for a response on those very good questions. It seems, from my experience sending books and questioning the process, that whoever just happens to catch the job of reviewing the books in the mail room gets the job. If you happen to have more intelligent and better educated individuals in a particular mail room when the book comes through who can spend a bit more time with a book, the likelihood of it being approved is better. If you don't, well that would explain a good number of the rejections. I would add to those questions why does TDCJ close its library for months at a time further denying inmates access to books?

Some of the comments here are a good illustration of the general attitude about prisoners. They're in prison so why should we see to it they are encouraged to read and why do we need programs to enhance their reading skills when we can't afford to educate our children? It's like the blind leading the blind.....or should I say the ignorant leading the incredibly stupid and a circular argument. If we properly educated our young in the first place wouldn't they be less likely to offend? Once they do offend, doesn't it benefit society in general to educate them in the hopes it prevents them from offending again by better preparing them for life on the outside and increase their chances of gaining employment? By keeping them ignorant and denying them the skills to improve themselves we are only hurting ourselves by increasing the odds they will re-offend if they can't support themselves once out.

I would have to agree with Charlie O and his comment. If there's one thing Texas excels at besides incarcerating it's citizens, it's breeding ignorance among it's populace. An ignorant population doesn't have the skills to question it's government, doesn't vote, doesn't understand the consequences of it's actions. It also doesn't recognize the dumbing down of it's schools and it's children. An ignorant population, raised on scripture instead of being inspired by all the wonders of the world and new ideas are no more than sheep. Texas seems to have a very large number of Sheeple. The worst part of it is they seem to be very proud of their ignorance and fight to keep things the way they are.

TDCJ EX said...

There is a list of “inappropriate reading material 'or some similar euphemism for banned and censored . In addition to books being banned out right each unit has it's own list of “inappropriate reading materiel as designated by the warden. Then some books are allowed but the “offending sections are cut out / torn or blackened out with a marker . So the prisoner does not get and”radical ideas “ Oddly Mien Kampf has gotten though at least a few mailrooms yet as Charlie O said Fried Green Tomatoes is racist .? Some of James Patterson books are banned because they “ might inspire terrorism” .A few of his books banned in TDCJ, Big Bad Wolf and London Bridges, The are fiction and some of it probably not close to possible but try telling TDCJ's censors that . Supposedly some books can “teach violence or racism” but ya prisoner can watch the news and see real violence and racism that goes on daily But they can watch the real thing on CNN and any local news station. ?? You can call Huntsville and ask for Mail Systems Coordinator Panel ( MSCP. ) They are TDCJs official censors. They will send you a list of books they have banned, but not what each unit has banned. Why not put this list on the TDCJ website making it easier and less time consuming reducing costs for every one including TDCJ ?

RAS I believe among the banned Grisham books are The Innocent Man .for those who don't know it is a factual account of two men who were falsely convicted of a rape and murder in Ada Oklahoma , in addition a book called D reams o f Ada , by Robert Mayer is also banned. It too is about two different men wrongly convicted of a rape and murder . In Ada OK .The accounts are frighteningly similar . The constitutional violations a, misconduct by cops, prosecutors and judge forces examiners are strikingly similar to what goes on routinly in Texas. Why would TDCJ ban these books?

TDCJ is very inconsistent what books , newspaper or magazine that is allowed on one unit is not on another . While certain prisoners should not be getting some things pedophiles and sexual predators are obvious . There does not appear to be a rational reason for much of what is banned and what is not . .Often it just offends the “sensibilities” of who ever was decides what was acceptable at the time . TDCJ does not to my knowledge often remove books from the banned list but adds many .

For now calling Huntsville and the unit you intended to send a book or magazine etc to is the best suggestion

Anon trolls. Prisoners n TDCJ do not get to watch HBO , or any “premium cable channel just basic cable . Television sets are proved by charitable organizations. People are either ignorant of what TDCJ prisons are really like you buy the outright lies told that TDCJ units are some kind of resort , the only convicts who have TVs in their cells are those in the GRAD Program and that is for security reasons. Stop making up ridiculous things about what that you do not have the slightest clue .I know for a fact TDCJ units are by no means a country club or easy time they are what has been called the most brutal prisons system in the US bar none That is not something to be proud of .

Yrosetx said...

Thank You TDCJ EX for putting as it is.

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