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State Undoes Prison Book Ban Blunder

Wally Lamb: Correction officials again bust the author's chops.

Hartford Courant Editorial

August 22, 2013

As a volunteer at York Correctional Institution, the state's maximum-security women's prison in East Lyme, renowned author Wally Lamb has taught hundreds of inmates to write. In doing so, he has had a profound impact on their lives. So why does the state Department of Correction have it in for him?

A decade ago, Mr. Lamb was harassed, investigated and sued after a group of his students published a collection of their stories. That matter was eventually settled in favor of the inmates, but here we go again. On Wednesday, Mr. Lamb alerted his social media followers that his famed 1992 novel "She's Come Undone" had been pulled from prison library shelves because of its sexual explicitness.

The Department of Correction responded Thursday afternoon with a statement saying the book came up for review by the department's Media Review Board when it was ordered by an inmate at the Manson Youth Institution. "The purchase of the book was temporarily denied and also temporarily removed from circulation within the York Correctional Institution's library due to some of the graphic nature of the book's content."

Apparently someone in the department realized how bad this looked.

"After a further review of the issue," the statement continues, "the book has since been returned to circulation within the facility's library."

"The department's policy states that publications can be rejected by the review board for a variety of reasons, 'unless those materials ... taken as a whole, are literary, artistic, educational or scientific in nature,' in which case an exception is made."

Let's get this straight. You have an internationally famous writer willing to volunteer in a prison, and he helps women learn to express themselves, and you ban his book? Do you want them back in prison? Are you the Department of Correction or the Department of Recidivism?

Someone orders Mr. Lamb's book and you halt the purchase because the book has sex in it? Can we venture a guess that "She's Come Undone" will not be most inmates' first introduction to sex? Literacy is a huge problem among inmates and you stop someone from reading an award-winning novel? We understand the department wanting to stop books on bomb-making or child pornography, but an Oprah's Book Club selection?

That officials relented is good, but just out of curiosity, who reviews the Media Review Board? For the record, Banned Books Week is Sept. 22-28.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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