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11 Dec 2014

Books For Prisoners: Hundreds of books delivered to Ministry of Justice

The Howard League for Penal Reform and English PEN today (11 December) delivered hundreds of books to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and urged the department to send them on to prisoners.

The charities, supported by authors Francesca Simon and Miranda France, wore Christmas-themed clothing and offered mince pies to staff as they brought the gift-wrapped books into the MoJ’s London headquarters.

It was the latest action in the successful Books For Prisoners campaign, which has gathered worldwide support from across the political spectrum.

The books, donated by Howard League members, were presented less than a week after the High Court ruled that restrictions on sending books to prisoners were unlawful.

The MoJ has until tomorrow (12 December) to seek leave to appeal Mr Justice Collins’s decision.

The Howard League and English PEN called on ministers to accept the judgment and lift the restrictions quickly so that prisoners can receive books in time for Christmas.

Campaigners also urged the MoJ to relax the parcel ban further, to allow prisoners to receive other essentials, such as underwear, or small gifts made by children.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Christmas is a gloomy time for prisoners and their families across the country, but it is encouraging that the High Court has found the Ministry of Justice’s petty restrictions on books to be unlawful. We now hope that ministers will move quickly to ensure prisoners can receive books in time for Christmas, rather than wasting more taxpayers’ money on a costly and pointless appeal. However, that isn’t enough. In this season of giving, surely the parcel ban can be relaxed further so that prisoners are able to receive underwear and other essentials, as well as small, hand-made gifts from their children. This would help to alleviate distress in prisons at a time when they are in crisis.”

Jo Glanville, Director of English PEN, said: “I’m hopeful that this will be the last time we need to gather in protest at the restriction on sending books to prisoners. If Chris Grayling sees sense following the welcome ruling at the High Court last week, then friends and relatives should soon be able to send books to their loved ones. This has been a short-sighted and self-defeating policy, depriving prisoners of what can be a lifeline and undermining the possibilities for rehabilitation. Public support for this campaign has been a remarkable demonstration of the widespread belief that access to literature is a necessity.”

Notes to editors

  1. The Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest penal reform charity in the world. It is a national charity working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison.
  2. English PEN is the founding centre of the international association of writers. PEN seeks to defend and promote the freedom to read and freedom to write here in the UK and around the world.
  3. The Books For Prisoners campaign was triggered by an article written for by Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform.
  4. The High Court judgment, handed down on Friday 5 December, can be read online here. The case, supported by the Howard League, was brought to court by solicitor Samuel Genen.


Rob Preece
Press Officer
The Howard League for Penal Reform
Tel: +44 (0)20 7241 7880
Mobile: +44 (0)7714 604955

Robert Sharp
Head of Communications
English PEN
Tel: +44 (0)20 7324 2538
Mobile: +44 (0)7790 420011

Andy Aitchison (for photographs from the event)
Mobile: +44 (0)7967 353220

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