GraylingThe UK government’s decision to crack down on reading material for prisoners has been showcased as one of the most conspicuous, damaging, and brutal exercises in political grandstanding through books in (admittedly, more and more congested) recent memory. Fortunately, as a result of across-the-board campaigns ranging from authors to prison governors, some of the relevant restrictions have been relaxed – although others remain very much in place.

The Howard League for Penal Reform, the UK’s most prominent and respected activist organization on this topic, shared a news release on the subject, explaining how:

The Howard League Books For Prisoners campaign won an important victory today (Friday 7 November) as the Ministry of Justice agreed to increase the number of books that prisoners can keep in their cells. The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) has sent an “urgent” policy update to prison governors, granting them permission to allow prisoners to hold more than 12 books at a time.

As the release adds, “high-profile supporters of the campaign include the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, Salman Rushdie, Vanessa Redgrave, Alan Bennett, Sir David Hare, Samuel West, Mark Haddon, Monica Ali, Sarah Waters, Monica Ali, Jacqueline Wilson, Julian Barnes, Kazuo Ishiguro, Samuel West, Kathy Lette, AL Kennedy and Joanne Harris.”

However, as Jo Glanville, Director of English PEN, adds in the same release: “Lifting this restriction is a positive step, but it does nothing to solve the underlying problem: how do prisoners get the books in the first place? Access to prison libraries remains extremely limited, and the ban on family sending books directly to inmates is still in force. The Ministry of Justice must urgently rethink its Incentives and Earned Privileges policy.”

Prospects for a more enlightened attitude towards rehabilitation of British prisoners appear limited, to say the least, in the current UK political climate. Hopefully, at the rate that the current government is covering itself in shame, it may not be around for too much longer …



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