AUSTIN, Texas, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Texas routinely bans from its prisons books by best-selling and award-winning authors, officials said.
Novelist John Grisham has had four blockbuster books banned since 2005, and books by Harold Robbins, James Patterson, Pat Conroy, Pablo Neruda and others have met the same fate, the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman reported Sunday.
Novels by National Book Award winners Pete Dexter, Joyce Carol Oates, Annie Proulx and William T. Vollmann have been banned in recent years. Award finalists Katherine Dunn and Barry Hannah are on the Texas no-read list, too, as are Pulitzer Prize winners Alice Walker, Robert Penn Warren and John Updike
Also banned are books of paintings by da Vinci, Botticelli, Picasso and Michelangelo.
Texas prison officials said they restrict certain materials for the good of both guards and inmates.
"We have to protect the safety and security of our institution," spokesman Jason Clark said. "And what may not be judged inflammatory in the public at large can be inflammatory in prison."
Critics of the policy say the restrictions can hinder prisoner rehabilitation.
Prisoners who don't read have a harder time finding jobs on release, said Marc Levin, an analyst for the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
"Literacy, or lack of it, is one of the biggest problems we have with respect to re-entry," Levin said. "Inmates who want to read should have that opportunity."