They don’t advertise it, but a classified list of banned books exists behind the walls of Virginia prisons. The Virginia Department of Corrections (DOC) secretly has forbidden prisoner access to a long list of books (partially named below), many of which seem innocuous.

No stranger to First Amendment controversy, the DOC recently has been embroiled in access issues regarding books and other reading materials, which had been administratively restricted.

Exclusive to The Schilling Show, in his own hand, a concerned Virginia DOC inmate pleads for outside assistance in resolving what he refers to as “crude” censorship and a possible internal violation of book-banning protocol:

Dear Sir:

Allow me to thank you and your staff for their effort on behalf of the prisoners of the Virginia Department of Corrections (DOC) concerning the prisoners’ First Amendment rights, specially the freedom of the press.

If not for the actions of yourselves and apparently a few others, including The Quest Institute, the DOC would most likely ban the prisoners from receiving or having access to the great majority of printed material available.

As you may know, the DOC has what is known as the Banned Publications List (BPL). Materials on this list are placed there because of supposed “security concerns“ or are of an “offensive manner“.  The DOC’s guidelines allegedly state that the publishers and authors of these banned materials have been notified of the banning and the cause for same. This has not been the case.

In addition, the DOC apparently now has a new tactic to prevent the prisoners, some 35,000+ of them, from having access to books.

The DOC has libraries at their major facilities. Said libraries are operated by the Virginia Department of of Correctional Education (DCE), part of the DOC. The libraries are part of the schools at each location.  The libraries come under an administrator in Richmond known as the Library Coordinator. This person has control our the library material for all of the DOC’s prisons.

A Ms. R. Bibbens is the Library Coordinator. She has now taken it upon herself to bar the DCE Libraries from purchasing books that are not on the DOC’s BPL. Apparently, the books she bans do not meet her personal standards, as no other reason is given. Please remember, these works are not on the DOC’s official Banned Publications List.

This would appear to be just another way of the DOC practicing censorship in its crudest form. Many of the books she has banned are by some of the best selling and renown authors of the country. I have enclosed a partial list of the works she has banned for your perusal.

Sir, is there anything that you can do to stop this censorship from taking place? One would think that officials in the DOC would be glad that the prisoners want to read instead of possibly taking part in other less desirable activities.

Thank you for any assistance that you may be able to render these people without a voice.

Signed,

xxx xxxxxxx (Identity withheld to protect the source)

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5 COMMENTS

  1. They all look like recreational reading books, a lot of them some type of murder mystery. Can he give a reason why he needs access to these books? If not, then the prison system is within it’s realm to limit what materials are provided beyond that for spiritual and intellectual advancement.

  2. All these banned books seem pretty mainstream. Yet “Prison Escapes for Dummies” did not make the list. What gives with this?

  3. You only have to read the titles of many of those books to understand what they were banned. I’m no lawyer, but I found this bit of common sense on a Cornell University Law School “annotated Constitution” page:

    “A prison inmate retains only those First Amendment rights that are not inconsistent with his status as a prisoner or with the legitimate penological objectives of the corrections system. The identifiable governmental interests at stake in administration of prisons are the preservation of internal order and discipline, the maintenance of institutional security against escape or unauthorized entry, and the rehabilitation of the prisoners.

  4. UPDATE: According to a follow up communication from the letter writer, the ban on these listed books was lifted this week.

  5. I once volunteered for a program that supplied free books to prisoners, and I was very disheartened with how many of them wanted murder mystery/horror books. The last straw for me was when a prisoner at Red Onion – a maximum security prison mind you, so, he wasn’t in jail for drugs or other minor infractions – requested murder mystery books that depicted detailed rape scenes of women. He said that in his letter. He wanted rape and kill material, since he obviously wasn’t out there in the world being able to act on his whims anymore. So the next best thing was to procure books with detailed descriptions of that sort of thing so he could fantasize to it. After that I couldn’t do it anymore and quit.

    I’m equally disgusted with the authors of these kinds of books, and seriously question the soul quality of supposed “normal” non-prisoners who also read these books for fun. I don’t think any prison should allow any murder mysteries to be honest. Those guys (and women too sometimes) are behind bars for a very good reason many times. You don’t feed into their mental issues by supplying books with murder mystery/horror themes, where often times there are paragraphs long, even pages long, graphic descriptions of torture, murder, rape and even child abuse. I’m not saying you only supply religious material, I’m just saying no to the sicko perverted murder mystery/horror books.

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