Authors call for an end to ‘irrational’ ban on sending books to prisoners

This article originally appeared in the Daily Telegraph, March 25, 2014

Notable writers have attacked a government policy that bans prisoners from being sent books.

Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, called for writers to publicly oppose the policy.

He was joined by fellow authors Ian Rankin and Philip Pullman.

A petition shared on the internet yesterday calls on Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, to “review and amend your new rules which restrict prisoners’ access to books”. The backlash began on Sunday after Frances Cook, the chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, brought the issue to light after publishing an article attacking the policy on the website Politics.co.uk.

He described the Justice Secretary’s rule as “arcane”, stating that: “This is part of an increasingly irrational punishment regime orchestrated by Chris Grayling that grabs headlines but restricts education of rehabilitation.”

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Haddon said: “Literacy is a huge issue in prison, and having poor literacy skills originally is a fast route to prison.”

Mary Beard, the Cambridge academic, also voiced her dismay on Twitter, writing: “Books educate and rehabilitate. Crazy to ban them being sent to prisoners in jail.”

The restriction banning books being sent to prisoners has been in place since November 2013, as part of the Incentives and Earned Privileges scheme. This bars inmates receiving any parcel unless under exceptional circumstances.

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