Book bans are a hot-button issue, with controversies erupting in public schools and libraries around the country. But far more restricted reading environments exist all over the United States: prisons.
Over the past year, reporters for The Marshall Project asked every state prison system for book policies and lists of banned publications. About half of the states said they kept such lists, which contained more than 50,000 titles. We’ve created a searchable database so you can see for yourself which books prisons don’t want incarcerated people to read.
If you want to report on book censorship in your state prisons, check out our reporting recipe with sample records requests, guides, reporting angles, video tutorials and more.
For more about banned books and why they matter, read Keri Blakinger on prison censorship and the futility of restricting what people read behind bars.
The titles of some publications include explicit language. Most magazines and periodicals were excluded, but some may still appear in the list or may only be current as of the request date. For more information on steps we took to clean the data and how to download it, see our methodology notebook.
Which books are banned in prisons?
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