Prisons Are Banning Books That Teach Prisoners How To Code

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: The Oregon Department of Corrections has banned prisoners from reading a number of books related to technology and programming, citing concerns about security. According to public records obtained by the Salem Reporter, the Oregon Department of Corrections has banned dozens of books related to programming and technology as they come through the mail room, ensuring that they don’t get to the hands of prisoners. At least in official department code, there is no blanket ban on technology-related books. Instead, each book is individually evaluated to assess potential threats. Many programming-related books are cited as “material that threatens,” often including the subject matter (“computer programming”) as justification. The Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC) worries that prisoners could use the tools mentioned in some of the programming-related books to compromise their systems. But what’s odd is the scope of the ban. Justin Seitz’s Black Hat Python book failed the prison’s security test since it’s geared towards hacking, but so did the book Windows 10 for Dummies, Microsoft Excel 16 for Dummies which simply teaches proficiency in Excel and Windows 10.

Officials at the DOC argue that knowledge of even these basic programs can pose a threat to prisons. “Not only do we have to think about classic prison escape and riot efforts like digging holes, jumping fences and starting fires, modernity requires that we also protect our prisons and the public against data system breaches and malware,” DOC spokesperson Jennifer Black said in an emailed statement. “It is a balancing act we are actively trying to achieve.”

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