What sorts of books get banned from Illinois prisons?
Recent experience tells us that, under current practice, any and all books can be subject to censorship and banning.
While there is an official Disapproved Publications List, which contains mostly pornographic material. each prison administration has the discretion to ban materials that do not appear on that list.
For example, within the past 6 months, the books pictured on this page were seized by prison staff and removed without notice or warning from the shelves of a prison education program in Illinois. Prison administration cited security concerns, an expression elastic enough to mean anything, or nothing.
In fact, many of the books–all of which had been subject to review when they first entered the facility–had been available to incarcerated students in the prison for years without incident or comment.
The current policy offers no protection against prison staff, many of whom oppose college-in-prison efforts, arbitrarily disrupting such programming by seizing books.
These are photos of the actual books that were removed from the shelves. In some cases, you can make out the library labels on them, and the worn covers. Incarcerated scholars read and valued these resources.
You can access the complete list of removed, censored, and denied books here.
If you believe that books belong in prison, that titles on the Black and Latinx experience deserve a special place among incarcerated populations, and that college programs should be able to teach challenging, critical materials, please support the Freedom to Learn Campaign. It calls for book approval policies that are transparent and fair, with clear criteria and procedures. Such policies should also include a timely and independent appeals process.