As part of the ongoing Books for Prisoners campaign, leading authors will gather at Downing Street today to deliver the following letter to David Cameron
27 June 2014
Dear Prime Minister
We are writing to draw your attention to the ongoing Books for Prisoners campaign and to ask for your support.
Restrictions on families and friends sending books to prisoners were introduced by the Ministry of Justice in November 2013 as part of a crackdown on what ministers have described as prisoners’ ‘perks and privileges’.
We believe this is a misguided policy. Reading goes hand in hand with education and rehabilitation, whilst research shows that informal learning reduces re-offending. 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. We are therefore calling on the government to reverse this policy in order to end restrictions which prevent families and friends sending books, and other essentials to prisoners.
Fellow writers from across the UK are joining the protest against these restrictions, whilst tens of thousands of people have shown their support for the campaign on social media and by signing a petition.
The campaign has received media coverage across the world and the government’s stance has been condemned by international writers and former prisoners of conscience including Pussy Riot’s Nadezhda Tolokonnikova. An equivalent campaign has now been launched in Russia.
In April 2014, leading authors joined English PEN and the Howard League for Penal Reform in writing to the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, the Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP, to request a meeting to discuss our concerns about the restrictions and the impact that they have already been seen to have in prisons across the UK.
We were extremely disappointed that Mr Grayling did not agree to a meeting.
In light of the Ministry of Justice’s failure to engage with our concerns, we are bringing the issue to the attention of your office. We strongly urge you to reverse this harmful policy at the earliest opportunity. We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you in order to further discuss the matter.
We look forward to your response.
Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League
Jo Glanville, Director of English PEN
Carol Ann Duffy
Sir David Hare