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5 Dec 2014


The Howard League Books For Prisoners campaign saw a major victory today (Friday 5 December) as the High Court ruled that the ban on books for prisoners was unlawful.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Collins said “I see no good reason in the light of the importance of books for prisoners to restrict beyond what is required by volumetric control and reasonable measures relating to the frequency of parcels and security considerations”.
The judge added that he did not “regard access through the [prison] library services as sufficient”.  It was “strange” to refer to books as a privilege.  An open letter written by the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling, to the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, was described as “misleading”.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The Howard League launched the Books For Prisoners campaign nine months ago and we are very glad that common sense has now prevailed in time for Christmas, when for three weeks prisons will be virtually in lockdown. During that time, receiving a book from a loved one could literally save a life. We now call on the Ministry of Justice to relax the ban on sending in parcels completely so that prisoners can receive essentials such as underwear and small gifts from their children. This would help to alleviate distress in prisons at a time when they are in crisis. I hope that that the Ministry of Justice will respond to this judgment in a mature way and will not waste further public money by fighting it in the courts. Ministers should implement this decision immediately so that prisoners can get books for Christmas.”

Jo Glanville, Director of English PEN, said: “We are delighted at the judgment. This is welcome recognition that books are a necessity and not a privilege. English PEN has seen the importance of reading in prison at first-hand through the direct impact on individuals in our workshops around the country. The government should overturn the restrictions with immediate effect. Its reluctance to address the issue, despite the public outcry and support of leading authors over the past year, has been short-sighted and self-defeating.”

Notes to editors

  1. The Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest penal reform charity in the UK. It is a national charity working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison.
  2. The High Court judgment can be read online. The case, supported by the Howard League, was brought to court by solicitor Samuel Genen.
  3. The Books For Prisoners campaign was triggered by an article written for by Frances Crook.
  4. For more details about the campaign, visit


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