While this is not a topic that gets a lot of media attention, book banning in US prisons is not a minor issue. There are extensive lists of tens of thousands of books and periodicals being removed and prohibited from prisons across the United States, even with most of the states not willing to release reports on this issue.
We collected the huge database gathered from several sources, mainly The Marchall Project and Books to Prisoners, to analyze and present a report containing all the important information on book banning in US prisons.
How many books are banned in US prisons?
This database contains information from state prisons in 21 US states, with the earliest record dating back to 1815 and ending in November 2022. It includes both books and periodicals such as magazines, newspapers, and publications.
- Since 1815, over 56,717 books have been banned in United States prisons.
- Over 50% of these books were removed over the last 7 years, with 2021 being a record year with over 4,941 titles removed.
- The number of books banned in state prisons has increased year over year in 8 out of the last 10 years.
- The biggest increase was in 2012, when the amount of removed titles jumped by 111% compared to 2011.
|Prior to 2000||2221|
|2022* (until November)||882||-82.15%|
- 42.42% of titles removed from US state prisons are fiction and nonfiction books, while 57.58% are periodicals, including magazines, newspapers, and journals.
- Periodicals dominated the ban list in the previous century, accounting for over 96% of all titles removed prior to 2000.
- However, over the years, books became more present on the list of removed titles, and during 2022 over 75.74% of all removed titles from prisons were fiction and nonfiction books.
|Prior to 2000||69||2152|
States that ban the most books in prisons
While this database is the most comprehensive available, only 21 US states made their prison book banning records available. In this section, we’ll rank these 21.
- 20,202 titles are listed as banned in Florida’s prisons as of 2022, accounting for over 35.62% of all US prison book bans.
- Texas prisons account for 16.57% of all prison book bans, with over 9,396 removed titles.
- 12.13% of all prison book bans occur in Missouri as 6,877 titles are removed from use.
- These three states are responsible for over 64% of all recorded prison book bans.
Reasons for prison book bans
Using the frequency analysis, we looked into the most common words in the descriptions of reasons for banning certain books and periodicals from US state prisons:
- Words describing sexually-inappropriate content occur in 29.11% of descriptions of book banning reasons in US prisons, the most among all states reasons for bans.
- “Explicit material” is the second most common description of reasons for removing a certain title from prisons in the US, occurring in 21.63% of total cases.
- “Rape” is the third-most stated reason for the removal of titles from prisons, occurring in 5.58% of all bans.
- Nudity (6.49%) and security (4.75%) close top 5 reasons for book banning in US prisons.