Why Has Grayling Banned Books?
A-Z Challenge letter: G – Grayling
Towards the end of last month, I read an article on Politics.co.uk about Justice Secretary Chris Grayling’s decision to ban prisoners have books sent in from “outside”. Any book. Any prisoner.
There have been many rule changes made regarding prisoners recently, apparently to encourage compliance with prison rules. But since the ban on books applies to all prisoners, no matter how well behaved, I can’t see how this can be an incentive to follow the rules.
In a modern, “civilised” society, the purpose of sending offenders to prison is supposed to be less about wanting to exact a pound of flesh and more about encouraging a change of behaviour. One of the things that can work well is helping prisoners achieve qualifications or develop skills which will help them in the future. Banning books (and specialist interest magazines) being sent in for prisoners limits their ability to do this. Prisons have libraries of course, but as funding is cut, so too are the facilities provided to prisons.
Banning books seems to me to be a peculiar kind of punishment, and a dangerous one, for practical and ideological reasons.
Authors from Mark Haddon to Ruth Padel, Philip Pullman to Ian Rankin have criticised the move, with Haddon beginning a petition to have the decision reversed.
“It reminds me of the Greek junta: and even worse dictatorships. Is this government going to ban books for the people who need them most?”
The Justice Ministry has defended the decision saying that the ban on books being sent to prisoners by families and friends is part of a new “incentives and earned privileges” regime, introduced last November, which allows prisoners access to funds to buy books and other items as they move up from “basic” level.