PEN America Calls Out Prisons For Large Scale Book Bans

Banned Books Week shines a light on literature’s most challenged titles, but also on the institutions that carry out these bans. It’s not surprising to hear about the types of books that get banned, but you might be surprised to see who bans books the most.


PEN America, a nonprofit organization that advocates for freedom of speech and the celebration of literature, published a paper detailing the extensive bans that state and federal prisons have imposed on various books.


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Depending on the state, some books have been banned for very surprising reasons:


  • Prisons in both Ohio and Tennessee have banned various biology books, with some reasons being the inclusion of “nudity”.
  • A Colorado prison prevented a prisoner from receiving President Barack Obama’s memoirs on the grounds that the books were “potentially detrimental to national security”.
  • A New York prison banned a book on maps of the Moon because they could “present risks of escape”


On a federal level, thousands of other books have been banned as well, including works from well-known authors like George Orwell, Margaret Atwood, Alice Walker, Joyce Carol Oates, and several more.



The paper calls on US Congress to intervene in hopes to give those behind bars the chance to further their education.


The result is a book-banning system that fails incarcerated people, and fails to live up to our democratic and constitutional ideals. As both a practical and a moral matter, it is time to re-evaluate the state of the right to read within American prisons.


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Are you shocked to see so many books being banned in prisons?



Featured Image Via The Daily Beast