Conn. prison officials reverse ban of Lamb book

Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut's Department of Correction on Thursday reversed its decision to remove a 21-year-old novel written by internationally known author Wally Lamb, a volunteer at one of the state's prisons.

The agency said "She's Come Undone," a best-selling novel that became widely read after being selected by Oprah Winfrey's book club in 1996, came up for review after a Mansion Youth Institution inmate ordered it. The department said the purchase was temporarily denied and the book was removed from circulation at the York Correctional Institution library due to "some of the graphic nature" of the content.

"After a further review of the issue, the book has since been returned to circulation within the facility's library," the department said.

Lamb, who lives in Connecticut, has led a writing workshop for women inmates at York for the past 14 years. DOC said Lamb had donated the book to York's library years before the Department of Correction's Media Review Board was established. The board reviews books that offenders order through vendors before they are delivered.

In an email to The Associated Press Thursday, Lamb said he learned about DOC's original decision to ban the book from a prison librarian who was directed to remove and secure it.

Lamb said he was pleased with the agency's reversal, saying "I'm just glad it's over and was reversed so quickly."

Lamb posted a message Wednesday night on his Facebook page about the banning of his book, which he described as a story "about a troubled young woman who goes through hard times and then fixes her life."

The author wrote that "apparently a few sex scenes (tame by today's standards) negate the value of the novel's message about the necessity of personal rehabilitation."

Michael Lawlor, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's undersecretary for criminal justice policy at the state's Office of Policy and Management, said he was surprised to learn about Lamb's Facebook post on Wednesday night and contacted the acting Department of Correction commissioner.

"It's very important that we control access to certain materials for inmates, but there's an exception there for a reason — for works of significant literary value," Lawlor said. "Everybody I've known who has read that particular book has found it very inspiring."

The book has been published in 18 languages. Lawlor blamed its banning on "a sequence of very bureaucratic decisions that, taken as a whole, are incomprehensible but easily preventable in the future."

Lamb wrote on his Facebook page Thursday that both "She's Come Undone" and "I'll Fly Away," a collection of autobiographical essays written by the York inmates in his writing workshop, are back in circulation. He said he was grateful to Lawlor "taking the lead on getting the books reinstated" and for the outpouring of support on Facebook.

Lamb's latest novel, "We are Water," is scheduled to be released in October.

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