PEN America to Focus on the Right to Read in the Nation’s Prisons 

“America’s prison system implements that largest book ban in the United States. This year, as part of national Banned Books Week (Sept. 22 – 28), the free expression and literary organization PEN America will launch a weeklong initiative to shed light on the practice of banning books in the nation’s prisons and jails. ‘Literature Locked Up: Banned Books Week 2019’ will feature events across the country, online activities, and public education to highlight restrictions of the right to read for the 2.2 million people currently incarcerated in the United States.”

Source: As Part of National Book Banning Week, PEN America to Focus on the Right to Read in the Nation’s Prisons – PEN America

We hear about prisoners’ lack of access to books from time to time, but it always seems isolated to one jail or another. That obscures the issue. Book banning in prisons is worse than all the book challenges in all the school and public libraries put together.

We’re not talking about books with titles like “How to Tunnel out of Sing Sing” or “Bomb Making for Dummies.” I often wonder under what authority does the warden or those he reports to ban the same titles the rest of us are reading.

I hope PEN America’s initiative brings the problem to the attention of more people and shows how pervasive it is.





4 thoughts on “PEN America to Focus on the Right to Read in the Nation’s Prisons 

  1. There is the same problem here. Government attempted to actually ban sending books to prisoners by friends and family and impose a limit on how many books a prisoner could have in his/her cell. That was declared unlawful and abandoned in 2015. But there are still logistical difficulties in getting books to prisoners. Books have to be checked before they can be given to the recipient (there is a claim that pages may be soaked in drugs!). Understaffing results in huge backlogs and very few prisoners being able to use prison libraries. PEN is right to try and raise the profile of this. I have seen something similar about the problems of getting books to prisoners in the UK this week too. Honestly, sometimes one is tempted to believe that governments want to encourage re-offending! We have far too many people in jail over here as it is 😦

    1. So much for the idea of prisoner rehabilitation. Don’t know what will come of PEN’s initiative. Probably the prisons will just keep at it because very few people will actually remember the problem once PEN’s words run their course. We have too many people in jail, too.

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