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Prisoner book ban ‘despicable’ say campaigners

New rules introduced by the Ministry of Justice that ban all prisoners from receiving books from the outside world have been slammed as counter-productive and "despicable". 

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said the new rules would mean that “from now on, any man, woman or child in prison will not be able to receive a book from outside”.

A statement from the Ministry of Justice did not directly address the question over whether books being sent into prisons would be banned, but did say “the notion of banning books in prisons is complete nonsense”. 

However, Crook argued: “This is part of an increasingly irrational punishment regime orchestrated by Chris Grayling that grabs headlines but restricts education or rehabilitation. Writing for, she explained that the rules governing prisoner possessions are “arcane” and are not applied “consistently” across the prison system.

She highlighted that the new restrictions relate to the changes to the system of rewards and punishments, designed to encourage prisoners to comply with prison rules.  “Yet the ban on receiving books is a blanket decision, so no matter how compliant and well behaved you are, no prisoner will be allowed to receive books from the outside,” said Crook.

Crook added that book banning is in some way the “most despicable and “nastiest” element of the new rules, which also apply to prisoners not being able to receive clothing from outside prison.

“Prison libraries are supplied and funded by local authorities and have often been surprisingly good, but so many libraries are now closing and cutting costs that inevitably the first service to feel the pinch is in prison,” concluded Crook.

Jeremy Wright, prisons minister, said: “The notion we are banning books in prisons is complete nonsense.  All prisoners can have up to 12 books in their cells at any one time, and all prisoners have access to the prison library.

“Under the Incentives and Earned Privileges scheme, if prisoners engage with their rehabilitation and comply with the regime they can have greater access to funds to buy items including books.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]


Abuzz   24/03/2014 at 12:29

This is unbelievable legislation! Are we in the 21st Century, or the 16th? Books are the gateway to reform. If a prisoner is reading a book, they are half-way there. Don't ban the book. Ban the prejudice, the injustice, the violence and the lack of understanding of the human mind.

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