Studies show that allowing prisoners access to outside information and ideas reduces recidivism and is essential to a successful transition back into society. Then why does the largest book ban in the U.S. exist in our state and federal prisons?
In Texas, the Department of Criminal Justice has banned over 10,000 books from prisons, including books by Alice Walker, John Grisham, Jenna Bush Hager, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Bob Dole. While books from Adolf Hitler and David Duke have been allowed, books about civil rights and prison conditions are often blocked.
Prisons across the country have attempted to ban the book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Public outcry has forced many prisons to reverse their decision, and yet bans on books that discuss mass incarceration continue to exist in prisons across the country.
In the past two years alone, PEN America has joined others in decrying such policies in New York, Maryland, Washington State, Illinois, and others.
Join PEN America and our allies in telling Congress to act. Sign the petition demanding Congress convene immediate hearings on book restriction practices in prisons.
The Federal prison system houses over 177,000 incarcerated people, and it has made its own attempt to restrict book access. Last year, the Bureau of Prisons rolled out a pilot program where incarcerated people would have to pay an unexplained 30 percent markup to buy books. Thankfully, the program was rescinded after public outcry.
The federal prison system is a model for prison policy across the country. This is why we need Congress to act.
Sign the petition to both the House and the Senate Judiciary Committees to convene hearings on book banning practices in American prisons.
Banned Books Week is coming next week. Together, let’s shine much-needed light on the state of incarcerated people's access to literature.
Dinaw Mangestu's Signature
Dinaw Mangestu, PEN America Board Member and Author
PEN America Board Member and Author
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