Lawyer Argues Prison Censorship Goes Too Far

Sep 20, 2016

Prisons often ban maps, since they can be useful in escape attempts. But one facility used that idea to strip the prison library of maps of the moon and planets.
Credit NASA /

Prisons often take an expansive view of their power to censor what inmates are reading. It makes sense that they might ban a book on, say, how to escape from jail. But what about medical textbooks? Classic works of literature? Or even a picture of a cat?

Those are just some of the examples attorney David Shapiro cites in a new article in the George Washington Law Review.

He argues judges have given prison officials too much freedom to limit the speech rights of prisoners. Shapiro is with the MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University, and spoke with our reporter Brian Mackey.

Brian Mackey covers state government for NPR Illinois. You can follow his reporting on Twitter and Facebook. A version of this story was first broadcast on Illinois Edition on September 20, 2016.