Oct 31, 2023 - News

Florida prisons ban the most books

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

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Prisons in Florida have banned tens of thousands of books, and the figure may be even higher than researchers can determine.

Why it matters: Prison book bans across the U.S. exceed school and library bans, per the report from PEN America, which found "single state prison systems censor more books than all schools and libraries combined."

  • The report, based on open record requests, reveals some of the tactics prisons employ to censor titles, Axios' Shauneen Miranda reports.

By the numbers: Florida censored about 22,000 books — the most titles of any state, according to Pen America. Texas and Kansas had the second- and third-most banned titles.

Of note: Only 28 states keep an official record of the specific titles they ban. PEN America tracked down the most recent data available.

Between the lines: The most banned book category includes those deemed sexually explicit, a classification used to ban books on medicine and art and some popular magazines, according to Moira Marquis, lead author of the report.

  • "Prison Ramen: Recipes and Stories from Behind Bars," detailing how to make different recipes in a cell, is the most banned book.

Be smart: Due to a lack of documentation across states and at the federal level, PEN America says the "true extent of carceral censorship is likely exponentially greater" than the figures reported.

What they're saying: "Prison censorship just absolutely dwarfs any other kind of censorship in our culture," Marquis, senior manager of PEN America's Freewrite project, told Axios. "It doesn't only target specific content or titles. It's really aimed at the medium of the written word itself."

  • PEN America is a First Amendment nonprofit advocating for writers' free expression. The organization works with incarcerated people.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Tampa Bay.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Tampa Bay stories

No stories could be found

Tampa Baypostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Tampa Bay.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more