29 September 2014

Censorship of books in U.S. prisons

From a story in The Guardian:
There is “widespread censorship” of books in US prisons, according to a report submitted to a UN human rights review, which details the banning of works about artists from Botticelli to Van Gogh from Texan state prisons for containing “sexually explicit images”.
The report from two free-speech organisations, the New York-based National Coalition Against Censorship and the Copenhagen-based Freemuse, to the United Nation’s (UN) Universal Periodic Review states that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) lists 11,851 titles banned from its facilities. These range from the “ostensibly reasonable”, such as How to Create a New Identity, Essential Throwing and Grappling Techniques, and Art & Design of Custom Fixed Blades, to what it describes as “the telling”, including Write it in Arabic, and the “bizarre” (Arrival of the Gods: Revealing the Alien Landing Sites at Nazca was banned for reasons of “homosexuality”)...

“Of the 11,851 total blocked titles, 7,061 were blocked for ‘deviant sexual behaviour’ and 543 for sexually explicit images,” says the report, naming artists including Caravaggio, Cézanne, Dallí, Picasso, Raphael, Rembrandt and Renoir among those whose works have been kept out of Texas state prisons.

Anthologies on Greco-Roman art, the pre-Raphaelites, impressionism, Mexican muralists, pop surrealism, graffiti art, art deco, art nouveau and the National Museum of Women in the Arts are banned for the same reason, as are numerous textbooks on pencil drawing, watercolour, oil painting, photography, graphic design, architecture and anatomy for artists,” states the submission, with prohibited literary works by Gustav Flaubert, Langston Hughes, Flannery O’Connor, George Orwell, Ovid, Philip Roth, Salman Rushdie, John Updike, Shakespeare and Alice Walker also on the banned list.
More at the link.  The eagerness to ban pornography puzzles me.  These prisoners are capable of hiding razor blades in their mouths and knives in their rectums, and the  authorities are worried that the images might corrupt their minds or they might waste their time masturbating??


  1. Having guarded an Army correctional facility (loaded with aggressive sexual predators) I am familiar with the no porn policy. I couldn't tell say with certitude that it is the best answer, but have to suspect that porn would be one more thing for inmates to fight over.

    Anyone who has ever been a 12 year old boy will know that in the absence of overt porn, anything remotely titillating will work.

    Of course, I don't think that cages are an effective or moral response to the vast majority of crime, so whether or not people get porn in jail is rearranging deck chairs on the titanic.

  2. This is a topic where I have some VERY strong opinions. Regarding prisoners' rights, but also the tragedy of the fact that society is so coy on the topic of masturbation. The phrase "don't get me started" was invented for just this purpose.

    The commenter above raises some good points.


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