Texas prisons ban The Color Purple and Monty Python – but Mein Kampf is fine

Click here to view the original article.

[Prisoners cannot read more than 10,000 titles but Hitler’s autobiography and two titles by former KKK wizard David Duke are not among them. *RON*]

Edward Helmore, The Guardian, 2 December 2017

What is or is not permitted in Texas prisons is largely decided by mailroom staff, the Dallas Morning News found. Sometimes the binding or covers are the problem for smuggling-conscious staff. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Books including The Color Purple, Freakonomics and Monty Python’s Big Red Book are banned in Texas state prisons – but Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf and two books by former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke are not.

The Dallas Morning News reported the choices made by the Texas department of criminal justice (TDCJ) on behalf of thousands of inmates.

There are 248,281 approved titles for the state’s nearly 150,000 inmates to read, the paper said, and 10,073 that are banned. Also among the forbidden are a collection of Shakespeare sonnets, Where’s Waldo? Santa Spectacular and Homer Simpson’s Little Book of Laziness.

Satan’s Sorcery Volume I and 100 Great Poems of Love and Lust are allowed, as is James Battersby’s The Holy Book of Adolf Hitler, which is described on Amazon.com as “the Bible of neo-Nazism and of esoteric Hitlerism”.

What is or is not permissible in Texas prisons is largely decided by mailroom staff, the newspaper found. Content and imagery are only part of the criteria applied; many books are banned because their bindings or covers could be used to smuggle contraband. For obvious reasons, maps are also banned.

Regarding content, the Dallas Morning News reported, reasons for a book to be banned include: information on the manufacture of explosives, weapons and/or drugs; material “written solely for the purpose of communicating information designed to achieve the breakdown of prisons through offender disruption”; graphic presentations of illegal acts “such as rape, incest, sex with a minor, bestiality, necrophilia or bondage”; and information on “how to avoid detection of criminal schemes”.

Some graphic novels, including titles on The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and Monty Python, are prohibited because they contain nudity or sexual images. EL James’s softcore Fifty Shades novels, meanwhile, are allowed.

The ACLU of Texas executive director, Terri Burke, told the newspaper inmates should have the same access to literature as anyone in society.

“There is no excuse in our opinion for banning books in the prisons,” Burke said. “None at all. There’s a lot of rights prisoners give up, but they shouldn’t have to give up that one. Adolf Hitler and David Duke should be there just as much as Salman Rushdie and Alice Walker.”

Freakonomics, by Steven D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner, is banned because it contains “racial content” the TDCJ deemed capable of provoking “offender disruption”.

The Color Purple was banned because author Alice Walker leads the reader to believe the main character is raped by her father.

Asked about books by Duke and Hitler, a prison system spokesperson told the paper both conformed to state guidelines.

“Mein Kampf is on the approved list because it does not violate our rules,” said Jason Clark, TDCJ deputy chief of staff.