Want a fun story to do? Find out what books, magazines and other publications are banned in prisons in your state. I filed a public records request to get a list of publications that North Carolina inmates were denied in 2013 and the reasons they were rejected.
Many of the banned books and magazines contained nudity and violence, which wasn’t a surprise, but there were a few unusual ones. Here are some of my favorites:
- “Tryptamine Palace” depicts how to make illegal drugs from toad venom
- “Body Language 101” has material that could be used to intimidate staff
- Field & Stream Hunting Guide provides information how to silently stalk a victim
- “The Colored Pencil Artist’s Drawing Bible” is bound together by metal wire
- Popular Science magazine instructs how to turn a match into a rocket
- Maxim magazine details how to extract intoxicants from a whipped cream can
My talented coworkers took the book titles and created a quiz to test our readers to see if they would deny the same books that prison staff did. In the story, I explain more about the process prisons go through, including how inmates get books and who reviews them. But what I love about this project is that it all started with a simple public records request on an off-the-wall topic.