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Florida Prisons Ban A Reporter's Memoir Of Her Time Behind Bars

Keri Blakinger, a journalist covering prisons for The Marshall Project, says the Florida prison system seems threatened by her work after her memoir of rehabilitation was banned. (Blakinger spent two years in prison on a drug charge.) "It's kind of hilarious that the prison system — now that I am rehabilitated and doing good things in the world — says that my writing is dangerously inflammatory," she says. "I also think it's absurd that one of the reasons for the ban was that the book presents a threat to the security, order, or rehabilitative objectives of the correctional system. The book is literally a story about rehabilitation." The Prison Book Program, notified Blakinger of the ban after they attempted to send a copy of the book, Corrections in Ink, to an inmate. The Florida Department of Corrections Literature Review Committee impounded the memoir. Unless they approve it, the book is banned from every state-run carceral facility, according to NPR. Her book is prohibited alongside porn and books on the Japanese language, yoga, and fantasy football. The department said the book is currently being reviewed to determine if "it contains subject matter that is inadmissible per Florida Administrative Code." The book's publisher may appeal the decision.

Coincidentally, Blakinger has submitted records requests for state prisons' banned book lists. Some state prisons act on a case-by-case basis. Others have a set list of forbidden books. "How big those lists are and what sorts of materials they include varies quite a bit," she said. Some states have very small lists, with only a few hundred titles. Other states, like Florida, Texas, Michigan, and California, have lists with thousands of titles on them. The ones chosen often don't make much sense, Blakinger said. "Texas has banned The Color Purple. Michigan bans Dungeons and Dragons books," she said, referring to the famous tabletop fantasy roleplaying game. Dictionaries in different languages were also banned, as Michigan claims the contents pose a threat. Prison officials feared inmates would learn an "obscure language" and organize against staff. While Blakinger says some books such as bomb-making are banned for security reasons she found that books championing extremism and white supremacy like The Turner Diaries and Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf are rarely prohibited.


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