Jan 9, 2023 - News

More than 20,000 books banned in Florida prisons

Illustration of a stack of books with barbed wire wrapped around them.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Florida's prison system has banned more than 20,000 books — the most tracked in the U.S., according to a new study from The Marshall Project.

Driving the news: The criminal justice news nonprofit published a database last month of about 54,000 titles banned by corrections officials in 18 states with such records, finding that Florida topped the list.

The big picture: Most prison systems banned books containing content related to violence, fighting, sex or nudity, according to The Marshall Project. But the nonprofit's analysis found that for some of the banned titles, the risks were less clear.

Zoom in: Florida Department of Corrections' (FDC) policy says that books will be rejected for safety threats, nudity, or descriptions of how to escape, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

  • Florida prisons banned Adolf Hitler's manifesto "Mein Kampf" and handbooks on close combat fighting.

Yes, but: Other books banned in Florida prisons include: adult coloring books, French language textbooks, "How to Make Money in Stocks," and an analysis on ways that the criminal justice system impacts African American boys and men.

Zoom out: In Texas, "The Color Purple" is banned, while Dungeons and Dragons books are prohibited in Michigan, Keri Blakinger, the Marshall Project reporter who spearheaded the database project, told NPR in October.

What they're saying: "When I started looking through all the prohibited titles, the first thing I noticed was that prison systems where lots of books are banned are not generally safer or less chaotic than those that don’t ban many titles," Blakinger wrote.

  • FDC didn't respond to Axios' request for comment on the finding.

The intrigue: Blakinger had her own memoir banned by Florida prisons.

  • Her book, "Corrections in Ink," describes how she struggled with a heroin addiction while studying at Cornell University and was incarcerated for about two years.
  • The state considered the book "dangerously inflammatory" and a "threat to the security, order or rehabilitative objectives of the correctional system," per NPR.

Department of Corrections Press Secretary Paul W. Walker told Axios, "Inmates under FDC supervision have access to thousands of books" and pointed to the rules regarding the literature review process.


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