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Outrage over prisoners' books ban
24.03.14 | Joshua Farrington
The Ministry of Justice has introduced new rules which ban people from sending books to prisoners.
The move has prompted outrage from authors and penal campaigners, with a petition against the move attracting more than 1,500 signatures in two days.
Under the new rules, which have been designed to change the system of punishment and reward in prisons, prisoners will no longer be allowed to receive books, special interest magazines, homemade birthday cards or small items such as socks and underwear.
Writing on politics.co.uk, Frances Crook, the chief executive of the Horward League for Penal Reform, said: "Book banning is in some ways the most despicable and nastiest element of the new rules. Prison libraries are supplied and funded by local authorities and have often been surprisingly good, but so many libraries are now closing and cutting costs that inevitably the first service to feel the pinch is in prison… punishing reading is as nasty as it is bizarre."
Quick Reads project director Cathy Rentzenbrink told The Bookseller: "We know at Quick Reads how essential reading is to rehabilitation. Half of prisoners have poor literacy skills. If they acquire more skills, they are far less likely to reoffend."
She added: "Lots of people report that it is in prison where they started reading, and that it had a positive impact on the rest of their lives. It's also a very important way to connect with their families and children on the outside. It's unbelievably heartbreaking and cruel."
Author Mark Haddon wrote on Twitter that the decision was "appalling", while musician Billy Bragg said: "People in prison need rehabilitation, not retribution."
Novelist Matt Haig said: "Our elected government has banned prisoners from being sent books. Books are a human right I think, just as imagination is a human instinct.
Baileys Womens Prize judge Mary Beard said: "Books educate & rehabilitate. Crazy to ban them being sent to prisoners in jail."