The Complex Dynamics of Book Bans: Examining the Impact on Independent Urban Fiction and Racial Disparities by AL-Saadiq Banks


In recent years, there has been a growing concern surrounding the restrictions on sending books to inmates in correctional facilities. These book bans have raised questions about the reasons behind the restrictions, especially when it comes to certain genres like urban fiction, particularly those from independent publishers. It appears that while the official rationale may be to maintain prison safety and security, there may be underlying factors at play, including potential disparities based on race and the empowerment of major publishing houses.

The Targeting of Urban Fiction

Urban fiction has gained immense popularity over the years, especially among inmates. However, it has seemingly become a prime target for book bans within correctional facilities, with a particular focus on works from independent publishers.

Independent publishers often bring unique voices and perspectives to the literary world, and this diversity is evident in their urban fiction offerings. Nevertheless, it appears that these books face disproportionate scrutiny compared to works from major publishing houses. The question arises: Is the system biased against independent publishers, and does this bias ultimately empower the major publishing houses?

The Role of Prison Book Review Teams

Prison book review teams play a pivotal role in determining which books make it to inmates and which ones are rejected. Their job is to identify content that may pose a risk to prison safety and security, but the process is far from transparent. While their intention is to filter out problematic content, the application of their standards can often be inconsistent.

One of the significant challenges with these review teams is their seemingly selective scrutiny of books. Works from independent publishers often face rejection due to isolated content, such as a sex scene, drug reference, or a mention of a gang. Meanwhile, books promoting white supremacy, hate, or violence seem to slip through the cracks, raising concerns about the fairness and impartiality of the review process.

Is the Book Ban Designed to Empower Major Publishing Houses?

The disproportionate scrutiny of independently published urban fiction books begs the question: Are book bans a tool that empowers major publishing houses? Major publishing houses wield significant influence and have established networks that can navigate the complex web of prison regulations more easily. This leads to a potential advantage over independent publishers, who may lack the same resources and connections.

Race and the Book Ban

Another troubling aspect of the book bans is the apparent racial bias. It's disheartening to see that urban fiction, a genre that predominantly features stories of people of color, faces stricter scrutiny compared to other genres. This raises concerns about systemic racism within the correctional system and whether such bias is manifesting in the decisions made by prison book review teams.


The challenges in getting books to inmates have become more daunting over the years, with book bans and their complex dynamics playing a significant role. The targeting of urban fiction, especially from independent publishers, the apparent empowerment of major publishing houses, and the racial disparities in the review process all contribute to a system that appears to be deeply flawed.

It is essential for advocates of prisoner education and rehabilitation, as well as those concerned with racial equity, to continue to raise awareness about these issues. Reevaluating and reforming the book review process in correctional facilities is crucial to ensure that inmates have access to diverse and meaningful literature that can contribute to their personal growth and rehabilitation, rather than being subject to potential bias and discrimination.

Older Post