Writers including Kazuo Ishiguro, Jacqueline Wilson and Sarah Waters have signed a letter asked the government’s Justice Select Committee to review changes which books cannot be sent to prisoners.
The Ministry of Justice’s rules under the Incentives and Earned Privileges (IEP) scheme mean that prisoners are no longer allowed to receive books, special interest magazines, homemade birthday cards or small items such as socks and underwear.
In the latest move to try and persuade the government to overturn the “book ban”, 20 supporters of the Books for Prisoners campaign have signed a letter to Sir Alan Beith, chair of the Justice Select Committee, saying they believe the IEP scheme is “a misguided policy”.
“Reading goes hand in hand with education and rehabilitation, whilst research shows that informal learning reduces reoffending,” the letter continues. “It can also be a calming influence in a chaotic environment. We should be doing everything we can to encourage reading in prisons, and certainly not be restricting prisoners’ access to books.”
Other signatories include Salman Rushdie, Monica Ali, Mark Haddon, Julian Barnes and Joanne Harris, as well as Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, English PEN president Maureen Freelyand director Jo Glanville.
Earlier this year Prime Minister David Cameron refused to meet with the campaigners, who presented a letter at 10 Downing Street, and Secretary of State for Justice Chris Grayling defended the ban, saying prisoners had access to books through prison libraries.
The letter to the Justice Select Committee also says: “It is surely only right that the impact of far-reaching changes to a government policy be properly assessed. In the absence of any appetite to do this within the Ministry of Justice, we ask the committee to examine the issue as a matter of urgency.”