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The Edge of Justice

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Texas Prisons Ban Dante's 'Inferno' but okay with 'Mein Kampf'

September 29th 2016

jail door closeup

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has banned about 15,000 books from the prisons it operated in the Lone Star State. Among the banned books are those by former Republican Sen. Bob Dole, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Sojourner Truth. But Texas has an open mind about Adolf Hitler. The totalitarian dictator’s signal work, “Mein Kampf,” is available to readers in Texas penitenciaries. Also allowed is “My Awakening,” by white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan official David Duke.
 
This comes during “Banned Books Week”: an annual event noting books targeted by official censors. Deborah Caldwell-Stone of the American Library Assn., a Banned Books Week sponsor, condemned the Texas ban of "Wolf Boys: Two American Teenagers and Mexico's Most Dangerous Drug Cartel" by Dan Slater. The non-fiction "Wolf Boys" is about two Texas teenagers who go to work for the murderous Mexican narcoterrorist organization, the Zetas, and are then caught and sentenced.  Both teenagers reside in Texas prisons.
Speaking for Texas’ prisons, Jason Clark said “Wolf Boys” is banned because it contains information about criminal schemes. A passage in the book reads: "Mario purchased pickup trucks from which he removed panels and lights. The trick was packing the drugs in a part of the vehicle where the body wouldn’t lose its hollow sound when slapped."
Author Slater criticized the ban. He wrote: "TDCJ has let its book-banning policy go far beyond what is necessary, permitting uneducated mailroom officers and Huntsville administrators to censor speech on political grounds or simply block books from going to inmates that prison workers do not like." Slater referred to the city where TDCJ headquarters is located. "If what matters is balancing security with free speech and the rehabilitation of inmates, no policy could be more errant."
Slater said that many nonfiction books deal with prison rape, but does not censor Stephen King's "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption," which contains a scene in which a male inmate is sodomized. The prison system also bans works containing the “N-word.” These include classics by American writers Langston Hughes, Noam Chomsky, and Richard Wright.
According to the Guardian, other books include: "World War II: An Illustrated History of Crisis and Courage" by Bob Dole, the former Republican senator, and "Ana's Story: A Journey of Hope" by Jenna Bush Hager, the daughter of former President. George W. Bush. Others include: Dante's "Inferno," Alice Walker's "The Color Purple" and Henry Miller's "Tropic of Cancer." Books by Tom Clancy, John Grisham, James Patterson and Lisa Scottoline are also on the list.
According to the Texas Civil Rights Project, TDCJ can ban books from Texas prisons that exhibit "sexually explicit images" and encouraging "deviant criminal sexual behavior." Books can also be censored for containing information on "criminal schemes."

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