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August 19, 2023

"Inside Out: Legacies of Attica and the Threat of Books to the Carceral State"

The title of this post is the title of this paper available via SSRN and authored by Jamie Jenkins. Here is its abstract:

The largest book ban in the United States takes place in this country’s prison system.  Prison officials can ban any book that threatens the security or operations of the facility.  Books about Black people in America and books about the history and politics of prisons are often targeted for their potential to be divisive or incite unrest.  The result is that Black people, who are already disproportionately victimized by the criminal punishment system, are prevented from reading their own history and the history of the institution imprisoning them.  This Note examines the legal backdrop enabling these draconian book bans to persist today.  As an example, it highlights the recent ban of Heather Ann Thompson’s “Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy” in Attica Correctional Facility.  It situates book bans in prisons alongside the anti-CRT mania plaguing our school systems, and labels both practices as forms of “memory law” meant to stifle the democratic engagement of marginalized groups. Finally, this Note argues for a rebalancing of interests that centers the rights and needs of incarcerated people.

August 19, 2023 at 10:56 AM | Permalink


The biggest piece of shit article I’ve ever read here. I was the director of my facility’s media review committee and can speak first hand. If Mr. Jenkins cannot figure out why a book about prison rioting, their methods used, and law enforcement tactics for quelling the riot is a problem, he has no business writing such a paper.

African-American history books are available via home or the prison library.

Academia loses all credibility by the day. I will never again listen to “the science says,” or “experts say.”

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Aug 19, 2023 3:37:06 PM

Of course, some incoming convicts might have already had access to these books and other sources that many Corrections Departments around the country want to ban. Once they are inside the prison in general population or on the cell blocks, these particular newly-arrived inmates with previous outside access to these censored materials could easily pass on their knowledge to other inmates--like a whispering campaign! Sometimes, a guard or staff member might inadvertantly discuss a censored material and its contents within earshot of other inmates who, in turn, could pass on to other inmates what they heard. Thus, while censorship can IMPEDE outside information, it cannot always suppress it. Even in Stalin's Soviet prisons, inmates had ways of filtering in "subversive" information under the censors' noses.

Posted by: william delzell | Aug 20, 2023 3:13:20 PM

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