Tell Congress: Stop the largest book ban in America

House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security; Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism

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The largest book ban in the United States isn’t found in our schools or our local libraries. It’s found in our prisons.

Over 2.2 million Americans are incarcerated, meaning that the arcane and arbitrary systems of book restrictions for incarcerated people represent the largest book ban in America. And yet these restrictions get little public attention.

Access to literature in American prisons is getting worse and worse. In the past few years, with the stated aim of blocking ‘contraband’ from entering prisons, various states as well as the federal prison system have attempted to dramatically restrict book deliveries to incarcerated people, or shut down such deliveries entirely.

In Texas, the Department of Criminal Justice has banned over 10,000 books from prisons, including books by Alice Walker, John Grisham, Jenna Bush Hager, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Bob Dole. While books from Adolf Hitler and David Duke have been allowed, books about civil rights and prison conditions are often blocked.

Prisons across the country have attempted to ban the book “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.” Public outcry has forced many prisons to reverse their decision, and yet, bans on books that discuss mass incarceration continue in prisons across the country.

In the past two years alone, advocates have joined together in decrying book restriction policies in New York, Maryland, Washington State, Illinois, and others.

The federal prison system alone encompasses over 177,000 incarcerated people, and it has made its own attempt to restrict book access. Last year, the Bureau of Prisons rolled out a pilot program where incarcerated people would have to pay an unexplained 30% markup to buy books. Thankfully, the program was rescinded after public outcry.

Studies show that allowing incarcerated people access to outside information and ideas reduces recidivism and is essential to a successful transition back into society.

The federal prison system is a model for prison policy across the country and Congress has the opportunity to shed light on this critical right to read where it is being thwarted most severely.

Sign the petition to both the House and the Senate Judiciary Committees to convene hearings on book banning practices in American prisons, with the goal of illuminating the control of incarcerated people's access to literature.

This is a national problem, and we need national leadership. Congress can send a strong message that the American people support access to literature for incarcerated people across the country.

To: House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security; Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism
From: [Your Name]

Banned Books Week, in late September, is a celebration of literature and a call to action to support access to books in our schools, libraries, and communities. Whether it’s challenges to politically incisive novels or the banning of controversial and offensive writing, we must defend against censorship. As members of Congress return to Washington, DC, we call on the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to convene hearings on book restriction practices in prisons. Studies show that allowing people in prison access to outside information and ideas reduces recidivism. The American people support access to literature for incarcerated people. It’s time for Congress to act to protect incarcerated people’s right to read.