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Books That Have Been Banned In Prisons

Updated August 25, 2020 3.0k votes 500 voters 29.6k views20 items

List RulesVote up the books that should definitely be on a prison's no-no list.

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. 

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  • 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."

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  • 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.
     

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  • 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. 

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  • Robert Greene's The 48 Laws of Power is known to be a popular reading choice among prisoners in the United States prison system, as well as celebrities. The bestselling book provides 48 "laws" on how to live your life and gain confidence. Greene studied the lives of Henry Kissinger and P.T. Barnum and borrowed the philosophies of Machiavelli and Sun Tzu to come up with his 48 principles. As popular as the book, it's also on the banned list at many prisons. In fact, as of 2017, there are only two books that are explicitly prohibited in Utah prions, both of which Robert Greene is the author. The 48 Laws Of Power, as well as Greene's follow-up, The Art of Seduction, are both banned books. The Utah prison system feels that both books have the ability to teach inmates how to manipulate others. Reading Game of Thrones in Utah prisons, however, is totally fine.

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