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Famous Authors Hit Back at Book Ban

Famous Authors Hit Back at Book Ban

A regulation that was brought in November of last year that prevents books being sent to prisoners in jail may end up being thwarted by an outcry that appears to be led by some of Britain’s most famous authors.

The rule doesn’t completely ban prisoners from reading – the prisoners will be able to buy books using credits that are awarded for good behaviour as part of the Incentive and Earned Privileges scheme. The prisoners will also still be able to access their prison library, though this library will have to provide for everyone in the prison, the prisoner may only get access once a fortnight (if they are lucky!), and the library may not cater for specialty books (such as about trains, or maybe specific animals).

However, many prisoners benefit from reading in prison. In fact, some prisoners learn to read in prison, or only read in prison, and books are thought to be a very valuable rehabilitation tool. Because of this, authors are hitting back after the rule came to light thanks to an article published on, written by the Howard League for Penal Reform Chief Executive Frances Crook.

In her essay, Crook described the regulation as “the most despicable and nastiest element of the new rules,” saying that although she fully believes that good behaviour should be rewarded, reading should not be punished. The League is writing an open letter that will be sent to the Ministry of Justice, but as yet has not been published.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time author Mark Haddon is also urging his fellow writers to sign an open letter against the rule. “Do you want people released into the community who have been retrained, who are more liberal and humane, or people who have been pointlessly deprived of the things we feel are important in life?” he asked. He pointed out that prisoners are people too, and one day they could be our colleague or neighbour.

Some big names have taken to expressing their views of the subject on Twitter. Cambridge Classics Professor Mary Beard stated that reading educates and rehabilitates prisoners. Matt Haig, award winning children’s author, said that books are a basic human right that the prisoners are being deprived of.

“Is this government going to ban books for the people that need them most?” asked poet Ruth Padel, and folk singer Billy Bragg said that prisoners “need rehabilitation, not retribution”. And they are not the only ones – there are so many other writers crying out for change.

In a bid to overturn the rule, an e-petition on is asking Justice Secretary Chris Grayling to amend the regulation, and at the time of writing the petition held over 13,000 e-signatures. If you would like to sign the petition, click this link.

Crook said she was very pleased with the amount of support her essay has brought for the cause, explaining that reading for prisoners is “literally a lifeline and lifesaver for some people”.

When some people go to prison, they lose everything, and all they have is their books. Others find they are able to gain knowledge that wouldn’t be able to on the outside. Books and reading should be used as the valuable rehabilitation tool they are capable of being, and it’s brilliant that so many big names have recognised this and are promoting change.


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