January 28, 2023

Save the Net Books

Blogazine on Books, Arts, and Music

Prison memories banned from Florida prisons

Book bans in prisons are nothing new. In fact, censorship thrives in the prison system. Whether the prison is public or private and part of a statewide system or independent affects the materials that are allowed to be sent to individuals (and the method by which they can be sent) and the materials that are allowed in prison libraries (if those libraries available). Everyone).

Now Florida jails have banned a book by a formerly incarcerated writer about her experiences.

My book is in the book jail, all of you!!! Florida prisons ‘seized’ corrections in ink – the first step towards a permanent ban – because it is ‘dangerously inflammatory’ and ‘poses a threat to the safety, order or rehabilitation goals of the correctional system’

Honestly, I’m so proud pic.twitter.com/5y7H5VAVAr

— Keri Blakinger (@keribla) October 26, 2022

Keri Blakinger is a reporter for The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news source covering everything to do with the criminal justice system. “Corrections In Ink” follows Blakinger’s experience as a growing up competitive skater who began experimenting with drugs after her skating partnership ended. Nine years of instability in her life consisted of being homeless and struggling with substance abuse, and just as she was about to pull her life together, Blakinger was arrested. She spent two years in a state prison and left sober. In addition to telling her story, Corrections in Ink offers insights into how she used her privileges as a white woman to help others who were in positions not unlike hers.

The Prison Book Program tried to mail her book to a person in a Florida prison in Okaloosa and it was confiscated. It is up to the Florida Department of Justice’s Literature Review Committee to decide whether or not the book can be kept at the facilities, but in the meantime it is banned from every Florida state prison.

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NPR reports that the review committee will evaluate the book in the coming weeks, but said it’s too early to speculate on the book’s fate. Blakinger also reached out to the review committee, which said the book would be reviewed this week, with a final decision on the book’s status by Friday.

At the time of writing, the book is still temporarily banned and no outcome of a permanent decision has been shared.

“FWIW, Florida, is banning thousands and thousands of titles – including things like Dungeons and Dragons and Klingon dictionaries. They have one of the largest banned book lists of any state with lists I have reviewed. They are the first ones I know of to tag mine.” said Blakinger.

Book policies differ from state to state and institution to institution. A 2019 PEN America report on prison book bans notes: “[P]rison officials generally have wide latitude to ban books based on their content, including the prerogative to develop their own reasons why a book should be banned.” Because the decisions about materials are made inside the prison — either in Mailrooms or by committees composed of people who work for the system – there is considerable leeway in the interpretation of these guidelines.

This latitude thrives in a prison system that itself functions as a hierarchy. Censorship can take place in many arenas, with no communication between and between individuals within a given prison – and even more so at the state level, despite statewide policies intended to be consistent. PEN mentions that “Content-based censorship often takes place in the prison mail room or in the prison library — on an individual level. In the prison mailroom, individual officers are empowered to decide whether or not a book may or may not reach its intended recipient,” and there are no formal processes for making such decisions. The decisions require no explanations or meaningful insights. This means there may be no documentation as to why or how certain titles were deemed unacceptable.

In Okloosa, one person took it upon himself to consider corrections in ink inappropriate, and the documentation offered little insight into the book’s contents, which did not meet the prison’s material guidelines. But one complaint was enough to trigger the temporary nationwide ban.

Blakinger shared passages from the book marked as problematic on Twitter.

BUT. The specific sites and more detailed reasons they gave for the ban are WILD.

First, “218-222: PRISONERS ADVERTISE OPPORTUNITIES TO FAKE MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS IN PRISON.” pic.twitter.com/MkCpUklsVs

— Keri Blakinger (@keribla) October 26, 2022

The other pages cited are “236-238: CLAIMS OF OFFICER ABUSE IN PRISON”.

You may be wondering, is this the section where a guard raped a prisoner? No, that part was fine.

This is the section where a guard played a cruel April Fool’s joke. pic.twitter.com/hycVtkx6Fv

— Keri Blakinger (@keribla) October 26, 2022

“[W]While I’m not happy that it’s being seized, the ‘dangerously flammable’ seizure is pretty stupid,” Blakinger said. “But the idea that it poses a threat to the security or ‘rehabilitative’ goals of the prison is RIDICULOUS…my book is more rehabilitating than Florida prisons have ever been.”