Gove scraps prisoner book restrictions

Gove scraps prisoner book restrictions

Justice Secretary Michael Gove has scrapped restrictions on the number of books prisoners are allowed.

The ban was ruled unlawful in December last year.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson told The Bookseller that prisoners will be allowed to have more than 12 books in their cell and relatives and friends can send books to inmates directly. Previously, people could only send prisoners books directly from four retailers; Waterstones, Blackwell’s, W H Smith and Foyles.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: "We are amending prison policy so that friends and relatives can send books to prisoners directly. We are also removing the limit of 12 books per cell.

"The rules banning packages containing anything other than books will remain in place and packages of books will be subject to full security checks before being passed to prisoners."

Gove said told the BBC that those "languishing in prison" were "potential assets" who could be "productive and contribute”. He added: “If we look at them only as problems to be contained we miss the opportunity to transform their lives and to save ourselves and our society both money and pain."

However, prison governors will still be allowed to withhold any books that they deem "inappropriate, not conducive to rehabilitation, or contrary to the safe running of the prison". Prisoners must also continue to observe overall limits on the volume of personal possessions, which includes books.

Tim Godfray, chief executive of the Booksellers Association, commented: “We are really pleased by Michael Gove’s liberalisation and we welcome his decision to completely lift the prison book ban. Since 2014, we have made substantial representations to Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Justice, urging that those outside prisons should be able to send books to prisoners, as we believe that encouraging them to read has an effect on significantly reducing re-offending levels.”

Publishers Association Richard Mollet said the development was "extremely welcome", adding: "All the evidence points to access to books being a vital element in increasing literacy levels amongst prisoners; aiding rehabilitation and increasing job prospects when released.”

The row over prisoners and books erupted last year after the The Ministry of Justice introduced new rules banning people from sending books to prisoners.

Several authors, as well as groups including the Howard League for Penal Reform and English PEN, protested against the ban.