Approximately 950 books have been banned by the Louisiana Department of Corrections. Some of these books include:
- Fifty Shades of Grey
- Black Panther
- Google for Dummies
- Lady Gaga Extreme Style
These are books written by the renowned author Zane.
Books and Publications Banned by Louisiana Prisons
237 comic books, magazines and newsletters have also been affected by this ban. These include:
- US Weekly
- Rolling Stone
- Marie Claire
- Sports Illustrated
- Vanity Fair
- The New Yorker
- The Economist
- National Geographic
- ESPN Magazine
Which Books are Effected by the Ban?
Books banned at the state prisons include any material that contains sexual content and books that have violence in them. The DOC says that such books could provoke the inmates or even give them atrocious ideas. Something they do not want to have to deal with, with the inmates. They do this to maintain the calm and to do away with insecurity in the facilities.
Louisiana’s DOC Has Taken Action to Ensure Book Bans
The DOC has hired 27 people to work on checking the mail to review content that is coming into the facility. These employees are to confiscate any materials that are within the ban description.
The inmates have a right to appeal to such actions taken. It is however unfortunate that the DOC is not keen with such appeals. They do not keep track of how many of them are made nor do they take action.
These screening and confiscating measures have been challenged in court. The DOC was not shaken by this and did not make effort to change their approach. Bruce Hamilton, who works as a staff attorney says that these measures go beyond their duty to ensure security. He describes these works to be unacceptable and has nothing to do with the works of the department.
Political Books Banned from Louisiana Prisons
Such books have been banned because the DOC says they contain racial content. Some books in this category that have been banned include:
- 100 Years of Lynching. The content of this book is a newspaper compilation. It contains a compilation of hangings that happened from 1886-1960. The book was published in 1962. This book is an early, comprehensive study of the lynching of black people in the United States.
- Revolutionary Suicide. The book is an autobiography, Huey Newton. He is the founder of the Black Panther Party. Newton advocated for black people to rise and defend themselves. He was born in Monroe. The book talks about the time he spent in prison for murder charges of an Oakland, California police officer.
- Nation of Islam. All content related to the Nation of Islam has been banned. This includes all the books and magazines. Such content was created by Elijah Muhammad. He died in 1975. The man supported black separatism and he talked about it a lot. He referred to white people as the devil in his writings.
The Department has not had an easy time banning this content. In 2011, an inmate, Henry Leonard, was successful in a lawsuit against the state. This was when Wade Correctional Center, Claiborne Parish denied him access of The Final Call, a Nation of Islam Newspaper.
The Department banned it because it contained racist rhetoric that could pose as a security threat in the facility. The judge said that they could do away with the said pages then hand Henry the material.
Questions Regarding Sexual and Violent Actions from Banned Books
25% of the banned content contains sexual content. They have been banned because such content goes against the rules of the Department. Banned material includes:
- Nude photos
- Verbal account
- Sexual narrative descriptions
- Photos of people in lingerie
- Some swimsuit portraits (swimsuits that are not within the allowed photographic context)
The DOC says that exposing the inmates to sexual material could lead them to engage in non-consensual sex or other forms of sexual harassment. There is also no sure way to ensure that such content does not make its way to the incarcerated sexual offenders.
This means that all materials, that is, comic books, magazines, newspapers, books or drawings that contain this sexual content is banned from entering the facility. A large number of fashion magazines have been banned from entering facilities.
There is no clear guideline or measure that determines which content gets banned. Magazines that contained photos of women that lost their breasts to cancer, a woman that left her husband for Abbey Wambach (soccer star), and a picture of women from Cameroon who had their breasts ironed flat to stop their growth were banned.
Experts have said that there is no clear line to determine if sexual content will have any negative effects on the inmates. The University of Louisville, in 2013 had a study to see how these sexual material affects the inmates the inmates to be violent and get involved in sexual misconduct. The study concluded that such content does not always have a negative effect on the inmates.
Another study said that inmates who have been exposed to sexual material have acted out, but did not partake in more violent behavior.
Louisiana Prisons Secret Bans
Most prison advocates were not aware of these bans made by the correction department. ACLU of Louisiana found out about the banned publications and books when the list was posted on NOLA.com. After this, The Times-Picayune contacted the organization.
New Orleans-based Books 2 Prisoners volunteers also did not know about the ban on some books and publications until after the list was posted. The group is involved in sending more than hundreds of books to prisoners every year.
The group said that they had previously asked for a list to know which books were accepted and which ones were rejected. They were surprised to find out that the DOC already had such a long list of prohibited materials.
Susannah Rosenthal, a member of the group, says that they are most of the times left guessing as to what will be accepted by the prison. They only find out a book is banned when they are returned to them.