Books in Prisons

The Ministry of Justice has recently banned prisoners in the UK from receiving books sent by friends and relatives.  According to the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, the new restrictions on parcels received by inmates are part of an “incentives and earned privileges” scheme and aims to prevent drugs and other illegal items being smuggled into prisons.


This policy is draconian. It also doesn’t make sense. As Frances Crook, the Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, has said: “If the Ministry of Justice allows prisoners to be sent cash from outside, then why on earth would they ban friends and family from sending in books and insist instead that prisoners must buy the books themselves?” With employed prisoners earning around £10 a week, few can afford to spend money on books and while prisoners can still borrow books from libraries, the quality of stock is often poor and access can be very limited thanks to government cuts.

Chris Grayling: The Book Thief

Books are a key element of rehabilitation and preventing access to them doesn’t benefit anybody. These restrictions completely undermine efforts to invest in the education of prisoners, many of whom have no qualifications. Please show your support for better access to books in prisons by posting a “shelfie” of your bookshelves.


Filed under Books

17 responses to “Books in Prisons

  1. Wow… That is absolutely ridiculous (the policy I mean).


  2. It is totally in humane and shortsighted. You can show your support for the campaign to change this by tweeting a ‘shelfie’ to @MoJGov and @TheHowardLeague

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Have you ever thought about us bookies ending up in prison? I think you’re more likely allowed your cigarettes than your books. I know what I need more!


  4. kbeezyisviral

    That’s disgusting, but they will do anything to keep someone from having nothing to live for.


  5. I should also mention that I found the photo of Chris Grayling as The Book Thief on the Twitter feed of the human rights group Liberty:


  6. Couldn’t agree more. I’ve just written a short post on this, but I think I’m so angry I’m finding it hard to express myself!


  7. This has caused such a stir that I have great hopes that the measure will be rescinded. For me prison is also about rehabilitation and the possibility of redemption – books and education have a huge part to play in that. There’s a petition to sign at

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I found this story to be quite upsetting, especially as you hear about so many former prisoners who ‘discovered’ reading while in prison. I always this books are important for opening readers up to other world, now it would appear the government is closing off these world. Sad.


  9. Wow that politician has gone bananas. If anything they should be encouraging prisoners to get educated, to read, and to rehabilitate themselves. Refusing them the right to read is just plain ludicrous. I thought if there was one thing a prisoner should be allowed to do in prison is read. Would have loved to like your post but your like button is no longer there.


  10. Isn’t the technical goal of prison rehabilitation? Isn’t a positive, expanding act like reading be evidence that the person is trying to change and grow in and of itself?


  11. Hi Clare, This is a really important issue. I tried to like and tweet this blog post, but I couldn’t find either a [like] button or a (might just be me being stupid of course). Anyway, going to shove up a link on twitter. We need more signatures on that petition, so anyone here who hasn’t signed at – what are you waiting for?


  12. This is so counter-productive. I have signed the petition.


  13. This is unbelievable! But isn’t there another way? For example, couldn’t friends and family be allowed to donate books directly to the libraries instead so that inmates can borrow them (from a central controlled environment)? This might be more of a win-win situation i.e. books are received, checked and examined, logged and shelved, signed out to be read and signed in afterwards. This way the library would have more titles available for more inmates more of the time. I love to read and can’t imagine not being able to enjoy the words of the latest novel by my favourite author if I had the opportunity – whether instutionalized or not. Just saying.


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