English PEN and the Howard League for Penal Reform today (11th December) delivered hundreds of books to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to send on to prisoners.
Authors Francesca Simon and Miranda France joined representatives of the charities, who wore Christmas-themed clothing and offered mince pies to staff as they took the gift-wrapped books to the MoJ’s London headquarters.
The delivery was part of the Books for Prisoners campaign, which fought against an MoJ ban on prisoners being sent books.
The ban was ruled unlawful by the High Court last week, and the MoJ has until tomorrow (12th December) to seek leave to appeal Mr Justice Collins’s decision.
The Howard League and English PEN are calling on ministers to accept the judgment and lift the restrictions quickly so that prisoners can receive books in time for Christmas.
Campaigners also urged the MoJ to relax the parcel ban further, to allow prisoners to receive other essentials, such as underwear, or small gifts made by children.
Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Christmas is a gloomy time for prisoners and their families across the country, but it is encouraging that the High Court has found the Ministry of Justice’s petty restrictions on books to be unlawful.
“We now hope that ministers will move quickly to ensure prisoners can receive books in time for Christmas, rather than wasting more taxpayers’ money on a costly and pointless appeal.
“However, that isn’t enough. In this season of giving, surely the parcel ban can be relaxed further so that prisoners are able to receive underwear and other essentials, as well as small, hand-made gifts from their children. This would help to alleviate distress in prisons at a time when they are in crisis.”