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Grisham banned by Texan jail authorities

Grisham banned by Texan jail authorities

Bestselling and classic books have been banned from prisons in Texas over security, race or sex concerns. John Grisham has had four titles banned in the last five years.

What does Annie Proulx’s tale of the romance between two cowboys Brokeback Mountain have in common with Jenna Bush’s non-fiction book about a teenage single mother with HIV ? They’ve both been banned in Texas jails, along with books by John Grisham, Joyce Carol Oates, John Updike and Alice Walker.

An exhaustive analysis by the Austin American Statesman of five years’-worth of publications whose rejection as unsuitable was appealed by inmates found a host of bestselling and classic titles had been banned from the state’s prisons. Books by Nobel laureates Pablo Neruda and Andre Gide, collections of paintings by Picasso and Michelangelo, and bestsellers by James Patterson, Carl Hiaasen and Hunter S Thompson have all failed to pass the prisons’ censors.

Titles have been rejected over security concerns, for containing descriptions of criminal schemes, drugs or weapons manufacturing, for being racially insensitive, for potentially aiding escape, and for conceivably giving inmates an advantage over officers (How to Be An Ass-Whipping Boxer, and – perhaps less obviously – Draw Fight Scenes Like a Pro). The Elements of Persuasion: Use Storytelling to Pitch Better, Sell Faster and Win More Business was rejected in December, the American Statesman reported, because censors feared it “could be used to persuade others”.

The most common reason for banning titles was sex, whether in images or words, with a total ban on pictures of naked children. Tammy Shelby, who works at the prison agency’s Mail System Coordinators Panel, which receives books for review if inmates choose to appeal over a ban, told the magazine that in order to separate art from child porn, reviewers check for wings. If a naked child has clearly visible wings, it is a legitimate cherub and the book can stay. No wings? It must go. According to the magazine, “if he is naked, the baby Jesus would be denied.”

Critics have warned that the restrictions will have an impact on inmates’ literacy, but a prison official told the Austin American Statesman that the restrictions were for the good of guards and inmates, and that “what may not be judged inflammatory in the public at large can be inflammatory in prison”.

2 Comments

  • February 23, 2010 at 4:06 PM Tatiana

    This article makes me reflect deeply about the censorship nowadays. I think that there are themes as sex or crime very frequent in books but could upset prisoners, even if they’re good books. Anyway I think that this is an argument that hits me but it’s too big so I can’t give a sure opinion about censorship in jails.

  • March 3, 2010 at 9:11 AM Debbie

    Grisham, you’re the best,but with the ban issue in Texas,soon other states will en back on the same “operation ban classics from jail” Well their reasons kind of seems genuine but we are not sure those reasons are the real reasons behind the ban.

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