Authors continue prison books protest

Authors continue prison books protest

Authors including Mark Haddon [pictured], Salman Rushdie, Jeffrey Archer, Alan Bennett and Ian McEwan have signed a letter urging the government to overturn a ban on prisoners being allowed to receive books from friends and family.

A group of writers and high-profile campaigners wrote a letter via the Daily Telegraph to Chris Grayling, the Lord Chancellor and the Justice Secretary to ask them to “reconsider the Prison Service instruction that limits books and other essentials being sent to prisoners from family and friends”.

The letter says: “While we understand that prisons must be able to apply incentives to reward good behaviour by prisoners, we do not believe that education and reading should be part of that  policy.

“Books represent a lifeline behind bars, a way of nourishing the mind and filling the many hours that prisoners spend locked in their cells. In an environment with no internet access and only limited library facilities, books become all the more important.”

Among the 78 signatories are Julian Barnes, Carol Ann Duffy, Philip Pullman, Irvine Welsh, Joanne Harris, Hari Kunzru, Ian Rankin, Nick Hornby, Deborah Moggach, Mary Beard, Caitlin Moran, Andrew O’Hagan, and Iain Dale.

The letter is also signed by Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform; Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty; and Maggie Fergusson, director of The Royal Society of Literature.

The ban on receiving private parcels of books, alongside other items, is part of a wider system of "incentives and earned privileges", designed to encourage prisoners to earn rewards such as access to goods by reaching certain levels of behaviour.

The government has defended the ban, saying prisoners can still get books from prison libraries.

A petition against the ban has now been signed by more than 17,000 people.