Shockingly, American prisons may be just a tad draconian. Perhaps it would make sense to ban a couple of dangerous books, such as, "The Art of the Shiv: A Step-By-Step Guide To Constructing A Shiv Using Nothing But Book Bindings," or, "This Book Has A Gun In It." But the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has taken their book banning to a capricious extreme.
The Texas Civil Rights Project, who admittedly have a pro-civil rights bias, found that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has banned a number of acclaimed books, often targeting books that discuss social justice and civil rights. The guidelines for banning a book are somewhat vague, that allows prisons to ban books if they make, "a specific determination that the publication is detrimental to offenders' rehabilitation because it would encourage deviant criminal sexual behavior."
This appears to have given Texas prisons a great deal of freedom to ban a wide variety of books, including classics such as, Couples by John Updike, Big Sur by Jack Keroac, Satanic Verses by Salmon Rushdie, Deadeye Dick by Kurt Vonnegut, and the Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler. While there are many others, I'm not going to enumerate them at the risk of getting a flashback to the days of writing out long, painful book-shopping lists in college.
As well as literary classics, prisons have banned books that are just a little to keen on this whole "civil rights" thing. Among these books are Police Brutality by Jill Nelson, and Chris Crowe's Getting Away with Murder: The True Story of the Emmitt Till Case, which sounds pretty bad until you realize it's not an instructable on how to commit the perfect murder, and is instead about the miscarriage of justice when young black men were routinely lynched. Also, Freakonomics was banned, because there's no more dangerous a tool to give to inmates than reckless statistical inferences.
What puts this all into stark perspective are the books that haven't been restricted. If they're really worried about dangerous ideologies infecting the inmates, why isn't Mein Kampf banned? Other books that have gotten through the velvet ropes include the Nazi instruction manual, Aryan Youth Primer: Official Handbook for Schooling the Hitler Youth, David Duke's anti-semitic classic, Jewish Supremacism, and the Nazi fanboy bible, The Hitler We Loved and Why. At least that last book has some glowing reviews on Amazon, such as, "truth about a great man, to balance out the endless zionist propaganda and lies," and, "Hiter [sic] was not a monster. Hitler was not a homosexual. Hitler did not have only 'one nut' (and who cares if he did)." The answer to that of course is that I do. I care whether he had one nut, because it determines how many nuts I'd have to kick if I went back in time.
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