Search About Newsletters Donate
Graphics

The Books Banned in Your State’s Prisons

We asked all state systems for book policies and ban lists, then created a database for you.

A grid of 9 book covers set on top of a blue background with sharp shadows: Hand Lettering & Calligraphy, Soledad Brother, Mein Kampf, 50 Shades of Grey, 48 Laws of Power, Prison Ramen, The Color Prple, Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary, Forgotten Realms

On top, there are a few blocks of handwriting pointing to some of the books that read: "Threat to the order and security of the institution," "sexually explicit," "methods of poison"

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?

SOURCE: State correctional agencies Download the data

Do you have any tips? Feedback? Contact us at bookbans@themarshallproject.org.

This is not a paywall.

We’ll never put our work behind a paywall, and we’ll never put a limit on the number of articles you can read. Our ability to take on big, groundbreaking investigations — the kind that can lead to real impact — doesn’t depend on advertisers or corporate owners. It depends on people like you. Our independence is our strength, and your donation makes us stronger.

Donate