AUSTIN (NEXSTAR) — The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has banned more than 15,000 books from the 140,000 inmates that reside in prisons across the state.
Texas, which has one of the longest banned books list in the nation, has prohibited its inmates from reading Dante’s “Inferno”, Pulitzer prize-winning “The Color Purple”, and the Texas football classic “Friday Night Lights” for its single use of a racial slur. Books like Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” are allowed.
“In cases in which there’s a book that has instructions for making a weapon or instructions for making explosives,” Dianna Muldrow with the Texas Public Policy Foundation said, “there seems pretty clear reasons why prisons wouldn’t want to hand those books over to inmates who could use them to cause harm to other people.”
Critics of the list say this is a violation of the inmates first amendment right, arguing that prisoners are denied books that Texas children are allowed to read in public schools.
Muldrow says while the list is constitutional, its strict nature can cause setbacks for the inmates, like getting a job once they finish their sentence.
“We want people to have access to books and information if it is not going to be a danger to anyone else. Having a more educated offender once they are released makes them more likely to be employable,” Muldrow said. “Employability is one of the biggest factors in having a job and not coming back to the prison system after being released.”
The TDCJ said there are six criteria for determining whether a book should be banned.
“Offenders have access to thousands of books and magazines. For security reasons, TDCJ reviews all books and magazines at our facilities,” TDCJ Spokesperson Jason Clark said Friday. “Courts have found the policy to be constitutional.”
Those who disagree with books on the banned list have the opportunity to appeal the ban. That decision is reviewed by the TDCJ and if they decide to uphold the ban the only way for that book to be taken off the list is if a lawsuit is filed.