11 Apr 2014
Books for prisoners: Leading writers send postcards to Lord Chancellor
Leading authors have written to the Secretary of State for Justice, the Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP, in a mass protest at the ongoing restrictions on prisoners receiving books.
Writers including Martin Amis, Ian McEwan, and Hermione Lee have written postcards to Mr Grayling detailing which book they would like to send to a prisoner and why.
Restrictions on families and friends sending books to prisoners were introduced by the Ministry of Justice in November 2013 as part of a crackdown on what ministers have described as prisoners’ “perks and privileges”.
In recent weeks many of the UK’s leading authors including PEN/Pinter Prize winners Carol Ann Duffy, David Hare and Hanif Kureishi, former judges of English PEN’s annual prison writing competition Mark Haddon and Jackie Kay, and many others have spoken out in protest against the restrictions on prisoners receiving books.
The Howard League for Penal Reform and English PEN have requested a meeting with Mr Grayling to discuss changes to the policy.
In order to underline the importance of literacy and reading in prisons, English PEN and the Howard League asked prominent authors and visitors during this week’s London Book Fair to write a postcard to Chris Grayling detailing which book they would send to a prisoner and why.
Suggestions ranged from Long Walk to Freedom: the Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, to The Little Prince, from Kurt Vonnegut’s Galapagos to Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations.
Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “There is now widespread political support for the Lord Chancellor to think again. Prisoners should be able to receive books and other essentials from their loved ones. There is no evidence that this caused any security problems in the past.”
Jo Glanville, Director of English PEN said: “These inspiring recommendations are a reminder that books can be a lifeline. The continuing ban deprives prisoners of access to all the possibilities of learning and literature that these choices represent. It’s time for the government to reverse its policy.”
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