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Reading in the Slammer

Of all the odd things to capture my imagination in 2013, one was the story of Pelican Bay State Prison inmate Andres Martinez and his quest to get his hands on a copy of The Silver Crown, a story about a werewolf hunter who falls in love with a werewolf. The book was published by now defunct erotica publisher Black Lace and prison guards confiscated the book from Martinez on the grounds that it contained obscenity (sex scenes).

Martinez, however, fought the decision in the San Francisco Court of Appeal and the court upheld Martinez’s right to read werewolf erotica in prison. The verdict decreed that The Silver Crown had literary value and that the furry ménage à trois was unlikely to incite prison violence.

Having read about the Martinez case, I wanted to know what books prisoners had access to. After all, with my worsening PMT it’s really only a matter of time before I find myself doing hard time. So I was happy as a pup with two peckers to discover that a coordinator of US correctional education libraries had written an extensive blog post on that very subject.

The upshot was that some prisons provide law libraries, others provide separate law and recreational reading libraries, and many prison libraries operate on the same service model as public libraries. Interestingly but not surprisingly, maximum security level prisoners spend more time perusing legal tomes than werewolf erotica, since many do intense legal research in order to seek sentence reduction.

In a survey asking about the collections of correctional education libraries, librarians reported that inmate’s top non-fiction requests were for books on: self help, writing business plans, career information, true crime, biographies, psychology, United States history, sports, music, poetry, body building, health, religion, art, and writing and publishing skills.

I’m comforted to know that reading, rather than shiv parties and recreational sodomy (as portrayed by Hollywood), is the number one activity for the literate prison population.

Inmates’ most popular fiction authors included: Stephen King, Robert Ludlum, Donald Goines, Sydney Sheldon, Danielle Steele, Stuart Woods, Jeffrey Deavers, John Grisham, Walter Mosley, all African American writers and all authors of Westerns.

My mind is at rest now. I know that if I’m banged up I can always swap a penned story of lycanthropy passion for a pack of Marlboro. Not that I’m a smoker, but who knows what habits I might take up in the Big House?

Like the idea of reading about a prison librarian? You can't go past Hard Time by Cara McKenna.