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9 Jul 2014

Books For Prisoners: Campaigners bear silent witness during justice select committee hearing

Supporters of the Howard League for Penal Reform’s Books For Prisoners campaign today (Wednesday 9 July) held up books and bore silent witness while Justice Secretary Chris Grayling faced questions from the justice select committee.

Campaigners displayed copies of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime And Punishment while sitting in the public gallery.

It was the latest in a series of events organised to promote the Books For Prisoners campaign, which is calling on ministers to overturn restrictions on sending books and other essentials to prisoners.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This dignified show of support for our campaign highlights the distress that has been caused by the draconian Incentives and Earned Privileges scheme in prisons. It is a policy that requires urgent review. As families and friends are now forbidden from sending basic items into prison, prisoners are lying in overcrowded cells, wearing dirty clothes, with nothing to do and possibly not even a book to read. When leading authors asked for an opportunity to raise their concerns over this issue, the Justice Secretary refused to meet with them. It is regrettable that it takes a concerted display of Dostoyevsky novels to get his attention at a time when there is growing unrest in prison and an alarming rise in suicides behind bars.”

Leading writer Kathy Lette, who supports the campaign, said: “Books are not a ‘reward’ but a staple, like bread and water. I feel passionately about giving prisoners access to books not just because I come from convict stock but also because I left school at 16, so books have been my education. Reading is the route to self-improvement and a way out of crime. In a country which gave the world our best writers, from Shakespeare and Dickens to Austen and JK Rowling, depriving prisoners of books is pathetically philistine.”

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. For more details about the Books For Prisoners campaign, visit

Further information

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