Reading is Saving My Life in Prison Despite Being Censored
The prisons and other inmates are the reasons we can’t have certain books.
Banned books are always a hot topic out in the real world and the list is ever changing. Here behind bars, the list of what we can’t have is subjective. From what I understand, there is a master list of what is banned across the board, as far as the State of North Carolina is concerned, however, I know for a fact each camp has their own set of rules based on whoever opens the packages of books when they arrive.
When books arrive here at my camp, they come to the same place legal mail does. There’s a computer software program available where the administrator can type in the title of the book or periodical and it will tell them if it is approved or not. There’s also a matter of material, such as, is it paperback or hardcover. Furthermore, what size is it? We’re only allowed to have certain sizes, especially when it comes to hardcover. And of course, we can’t have spiral bound or any magazines that contain staples.
Magazines can’t contain full frontal nudity, unless it’s considered scientific in nature. For example, we can get National Geographic or Scientific American, but Playboy or Penthouse are prohibited. Then there’s the limit on how many books we’re allowed to have at one time. Our inmate manual says 10, but that’s also subjective. Does that include magazines? Puzzle books? Religious texts? Depends on who searches your room and the mood they’re in.
Often, if the CO is in a bad mood when a search is being performed and you are over the limit (real or perceived) they won’t give you the option to give away your extras or even send them home. They also won’t allow you to choose which ones must be removed. They’ll just throw them all away. No, there’s no recourse for this. You don’t have rights, you’re nothing to them.
Demeter recently told me about another incarcerated man, Chris Blackwell, who as of August 2022 has a byline in the New York Times for an Op-Ed he penned.