Target: Bryan Collier, Executive Director of Texas Department of Criminal Justice
Goal: Stop banning classic works of literature from Texas prisons.
Prison inmates in Texas are not allowed to read pieces of fiction or nonfiction written by authors such as Langston Hughes, Sojourner Truth, or Harriet Beecher Stowe. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) has banned about 15,000 books from reaching the hands of inmates across the state.
While some of the banned books are censored for understandable reasons (such as explaining how weapons or explosives are made), other books are censored based on personal preference and political belief. The mailroom officer, after a brief glance through a book, has the ability to decide whether or not it reaches the hands of an inmate.
One very broad category of books that are often banned in these facilities is those that may influence strikes or riots. As author Dan Slater, whose book about a prison inmate is banned from Texas prisons, explains, this means that the TDCJ can ban any book about civil rights.
The TDCJ argues that it is the use of the N-word in these books that forces them to be banned. However, this rule has prevented some of the nation’s most moving and influential stories from reaching the hands of prison inmates. Books that move and have the power to perhaps even reform a reader, like Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, cannot be shared. However, Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf is not banned.
Knowledge and enlightenment should be available to all, even the men and women in our prison system. If those in charge of our prison system really cared about reforming inmates, they should allow them the opportunity to read books that have shaped the history of our nation and have the ability to open their eyes to different worlds, beliefs, and people. Sign the petition to demand that classic novels be unbanned from Texas prisons.
Dear Mr. Collier,
An alarming report has recently been written by author Dan Slater, whose recent book has been banned by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. He explains that 15,000 books are banned from the state’s prisons. A great many of these books are actually novels about civil rights, which have been banned due to the use of the N-word. They will incite violence and riots, according to the TDCJ.
However, the novels that are banned include those by Langston Hughes, Alice Walker, and Sojourner Truth. Such literature has not stirred violence in our nation. In fact, it has done the opposite. The words of such figures have enlightened and moved millions to act for equal rights and change. To ban these books for inmates would be to prevent them from engaging with pieces of literature that have impacted our nation’s history.
The TDCJ’s decision to ban these books has denied inmates a basic right to enlightenment and education. Education is perhaps one of the only ways in which someone can truly reform and become a better person. Is that not the main purpose of a prison? I urge you to unban these classic works of literature.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Abhi Sharma