Writers seek Grayling meeting on prison book ban

Writers seek Grayling meeting on prison book ban

Leading writers including Carol Ann Duffy, Ian McEwan, Julian Barnes and Mark Haddon are seeking an urgent meeting with justice secretary Chris Grayling, to discuss the government's ban on sending books to prisoners.

A letter sent today (3rd April) calls for a face-to-face meeting where the writers can argue the case for easing the restrictions on sending packages to prisoners, which means they can no longer be sent books in the post.

The ban 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 letter is also signed by Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, whose article on the subject sparked the campaign, and Maureen Freely, president of free speech charity English PEN.

Crook said: "If the Ministry of Justice hopes this issue will go away, we are afraid they have another thing coming. The country’s leading authors continue to question the wisdom of a policy on banning loved ones from sending in books and other essentials to prisoners."

Dozens of writers have signed open letters to Grayling calling for a rethink, while an online petition against the ban has received more than 24,000 signatures. Last week, Duffy led a poetry reading outside Pentonville prison, while Geoffrey Robertson QC has argued that the government could be acting illegally by imposing the rules.

Grayling has responded to the furore, saying: "The restrictions on access to parcels by prisoners are necessary because of the need to limit the ability of offenders to get hold of drugs and contraband… Prisoners have always enjoyed and continue to enjoy full rights of access to all the titles available through the local public library service, which operates a full service in all of our prisons. If titles are not available there and then, they can be ordered as normal."