Do You Know Which Books Are Banned in Your State’s Prisons?

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Aerial view of San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, California.
Source: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

Book bans have been in the news constantly lately, however those bans are generally in schools and libraries. Did you know that books are also frequently banned in prison?

The Marshall Project surveyed the states and found that about 50% of the states keep banned books lists that collectively included over 50,000 books.

Of those with lists, only some states provide reasons for the bans, most of which were that the content was sexually explicit, obscene, or contained violence.

Florida has the most books on the banned list at 11,232 (followed by Texas with 9,396), while Georgia has the fewest at 28 (the next fewest is Rhode Island with 68).

Some of the books banned in American prisons include:

  • Arizona: Black & Decker – The Complete Guide to Kitchens
  • California: Encyclopedia of Leglocks, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
  • Connecticut: Gangsta Rap Coloring Book
  • Florida: Advanced Guide to Real Estate Investing
  • Georgia: Hacking for Dummies, 3rd edition
  • Illinois: Growing Marijuana for Beginners
  • Iowa: Black & Decker – The Complete Guide to Wiring
  • Michigan: Along Came a Spider by James Patterson
  • Montana: A Practical Guide To Dragon Writing
  • New Jersey: American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  • North Carolina: Blood Child by Octavia E. Butler
  • Oregon: 3-In-1 Word Search Crosswords & Sudoku
  • Rhode Island: San Francisco Bay View Newspaper
  • South Carolina: You Love Me by Caroline Kepnes
  • Texas: A Good Woman by Danielle Steel
  • Virginia: A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
  • Wisconsin: Guerrilla Warfare by Che Guevara

Discussion Questions

1. Should prisons be allowed to ban books? Why or why not?

2. If prisons are allowed to ban books, what should the policy include? For example, violence, sexually explicit material, etc. Explain your answer(s).

3. Argue for or against book bans in a setting other than schools and libraries or prisons. Support and explain your argument.


Keri Blakinger, “The Books Banned in Your State’s Prisons,”, Feb. 23, 2023