London prisoners to get free 'Books in Nicks'

London prisoners to get free 'Books in Nicks'

Every prisoner will soon be given a book to read while they are held in police custody under a new scheme.

Metropolitan Police Service special constable Steve Whitmore came up with the 'Books in Nicks' initiative after arresting an 18-year-old man for assault and possession of drugs earlier this year. The man asked if he could borrow a book to read while he was in custody, but the policeman couldn’t find anything suitable, reported the London Evening Standard.

"The range and type of books available didn’t appeal to him, so I offered him my own book, ‘Catcher in the Rye’, and told him to keep it,” he told the Standard. "The look on his face was amazing, his attitude and hostility towards me completely changed and it created common ground for us to talk about. He said he’d never been given a book before to own, and that really moved me."

SC Whitmore has now engaged charity Give A Book to put over 30 paperback ‘Books in Nicks’ across London in a variety of languages, featuring classics such as Moby Dick, Great Expectations, Catcher in the Rye and Treasure Island. Every title will also contain a leaflet advertising free educational courses and advice on how to register for them and prisoners can keep the books after their time in custody.

Victoria Gray, Give A Book charity trustee, said: "We thought carefully about the types of books that should go in – quick reads, short stories, poetry, books that are immediately engaging – and were able to provide them. Just the act of giving a book can change a difficult situation; it shows you’re being thought about differently. I truly believe that reading can open a door and help turn people’s lives around."

The charity provides the books for the initiative, which does not cost the Metropolitan Police anything.

In July last year, a ban on criminals being sent books in prison was scrapped by the then Justice secretary Michael Gove.