The issue was brought up in a Connecticut jail where inmates have access to all kinds of reading material, including true crime books and other fiction books with murder and violence in them, without restrictions that are based on the criminal history of each inmate. Recently, the reading material that a serial killer on trial read, behind bars, was called into question and has brought this issue to light on a larger scale.
Books mentioned that were available in some prison libraries were:
In Cold Blood -- "true story of two parolees who broke into a respected Kansas family's home and, finding no money, killed the parents and two of their children"
If You Really Loved Me -- "real-life manipulation of a 14-year-old into murdering her mother"
Along Came A Spider -- "novel about a psychopath who kidnaps and kills children of prominent people"
The Night Stalker -- "about the crimes of serial killer Richard Ramirez."
Most prison libraries have no sort of restrictions on what types of books are in them. They have to have a variety of materials in them and have to record their inventory. They do have bans on what types of books can be sent IN to the library and they have restricted books for being sexually explicit, encouraging violence and those explaining how to construct weapons. There is no governing body that gives guidelines to prison libraries and each is different in what they allow.
What those who think choices of reading material should be regulated argue:
- That there are so many other books out there and inmates don't need to be reading things with violence and murder in it.
- It could plant these ideas in the head of the inmate--like in the case of the inmate in Connecticut who committed a murder similar to the one from In Cold Blood which he read whilst in prison.
What those who don't think choices of reading material should be regulated argue:
- "It's another case of politicians scapegoating expression as the cause of serious violent crime"
- That a book should not be banned just based on the fact that it contains violence or sex as "no one has ever stated that reading violent materials causes anybody to commit a crime. Somebody that is moved to commit a crime has much more going on in their lives than simply having read a few comic books or a novel or 'In Cold Blood."
- "Even those individuals that a lawful society chooses to imprison permanently," it states, "deserve access to information, to literature, and to a window on the world."
There doesn't seem to be a definitive correlation between books read by these people and the crimes they commit. Some will say there isn't while others will bring up past crimes that were in fact inspired by what a criminal read in a book--such as two crimes that were said to be inspired by Stephen King's Rage and John Fowles book called The Collector.
So, fellow bookworms, what do you think? Do you think that these types of books should be banned from prison libraries? Do you think that there is a link between some of these crimes and books that could be cause for their removal? Should there be a governing body that gives uniform restrictions upon the books in prison libraries?