It's a proven fact that cultivating literacy has many rehabilitative advantages, so prisoners reading books should be a good thing. However, there is a ton of literature you can't read in prison. The Federal Bureau of Prisons regulations states that books can be rejected when sent to a prisoner if the content poses a threat to the security of an institution or if the book can facilitate criminal activity. So if a book contains directions on how to make a bomb or map outlining the layout of a particular prison, chances are that prisons will not allow the inmate to have the book.
But many institutions seem to take the rules a bit further and censor materials far beyond the specific guidelines, adding new books to the banned list on a frequent basis. Some correctional facilities don't allow prisoners to receive any books at all. So what are the books you can read in prison? Books banned in prisons differ from state to state, with some being much more strict than others.
The following anthology of books has been banned in prisons, and some of the titles may seem surprising and downright ridiculous. Continue reading to learn more about why certain books are banned in prison.
Zodiac Unmasked: The Identity of America's Most Elusive Serial Killer Revealed is a 2007 book which focuses on the Zodiac Killer, an unidentified person responsible for a string of murders which took place between 1968 and the early 1970s. The person claiming to be the Zodiac taunted police and claimed to have killed 37 people - and they were never caught. Zodiac Unmasked by Robert Graysmith claims to identify who exactly the Zodiac Killer.
If you're incarcerated and looking to find out who the Zodiac may be, you can forget about it. The Michigan Department of Corrections has the Zodiac Unmasked on their banned book list. The book is said to "describe instructions in the commission of criminal activity."
Advanced Home Wiring, edited by Black & Decker is, as the title suggests, a self-help manual for the would-be home improvement electrician. It walks the reader through various methods of installing electrical components and the basics of electronic wiring systems from a lamp to a remote control garage door opener. But the Department of Corrections in Michigan views the book as an escape manual and has it banned from their prisons as of February 2017. On the surface, this ban might seem logical and prudent, until one factors in the paradoxical fact that the same inmates denied access to the book could enroll in classes for vocational training to become electricians. Inmates across the country, confined in prisons of every security level are offered an opportunity to learn a trade craft. Michigan authorities apparently find hands-on lessons from a certified instructor less of a threat to security than the same information coming in book form.
AAA Road Atlas: Travel with Someone You Trust was released in 2009 and contains maps for the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The book also includes helpful tips for traveling through national parks and other tourist areas. In June 2015, the book was placed on the banned list at California prisons, because of the risk of such material assisting potential prison escape.
So, They Say You've Broken The Law: Challenging Legal Authority is a 2011 self-published book written by The Lioness. The object of the book is to help others gain a better understanding of the law, particularly for those who have court appearances but may not have access to a lawyer. The book claims to be useful for defense purposes, appeals and challenges. One would assume a book by this title would be most helpful to those who have broken the law, but the Michigan prison system disagrees. In July 2015, the Michigan Department of Corrections banned the book within their prison system and stated that the book
"...includes content which advocates and promotes the violation of state and federal laws, including directions to avoid paying taxes and the laws which control the use of roads and highways."