Reading about dragons and ice zombies can help you break out of prison. Or so Kansas Prison authorities seem to be thinking these days. A list of all the books (some 7,000 of them) banned for reading in Kansas state prisons has recently come to light, and all the five books from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series (on which Game of Thrones is based) are on it.
If Martin feels bad for the exclusion, he may find some solace in the illustrious company. Among the books banned in those prisons are Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, Ron Stallworth’s Black Klansman, Soloman Northup’s 12 Years A Slave, E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and several James Patterson novels. The list also includes many ‘How to’ books, role-playing manuals, several Marvel and DC comics, and magazines like Cosmopolitan, Allure, Elle, Art in America, Hot Bike and Hooters.
The list was accessed by Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC) in association with Books for Prisoners, a humanitarian organization that donates books to prison facilities. Books to Prisoners organizer and Public Records Manager at the HRDC Michelle Dillon told Newsweek that while it’s common for prison authorities to restrict access to some books, the sheer number of books banned at Kansas state prisons seem unbelievable. In her words, “Kansas… it just seems like they hate books.”
We just received the banned books list from KDOC & it’s unbelievable. Kansas has fewer than 10,000 prisoners, yet more than 7,000 books are banned for them, from “A Clockwork Orange” to “Are Prisons Obsolete?”
RT with the most absurd book you find! https://t.co/8JDgrM4NLU
— Books to Prisoners (@B2PSeattle) May 29, 2019
Some of the choices might make sense from strictly a prison authority point-of-view; they may not want books that include lots of sex and violence, prison breaking details, maps, or anything that may inspire chaos inside the facilities or help foster plans of escape.
However, many of the books and magazines on the list do not fit even that description. the ASOIAF books, for example, have not been banned for violent or explicit content, but for its inclusion of maps. Now, the maps in those books are obviously all imaginary and would help no one unless they were looking for a secret tunnel into the Red Keep. But prison authorities seem to have missed those finer distinctions.
Dillon puts this mainly to“no accountability, no oversight and very vague policies that allow for a lot of interpretation.” Any random employee, for example, may shuffle through a copy of A Game of Thrones, spot the Westeros maps, and immediately put it on the banned section, not bothering to check whether the map in question was real or imaginary.
Guess somebody should tell them the difference now since the ASOIAF series seem to be much in demand – there have been several appeals for the books in the past few years!
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