English PEN takes the Books for Prisoners campaign to Downing Street

Today a group of English PEN authors took the Books for Prisoners campaign direct to the Prime Minister

Together with the Howard League for Penal Reform, English PEN is campaigning for reform of the Ministry of Justice’s controversial Incentives & Earned Privileges scheme, which bans UK prisoners from receiving books sent to them by family members.

English PEN members Mark Haddon, Sir David Hare, Honorary Vice-President Rachel Billington and A. L. Kennedy handed in a letter to 10 Downing Street with Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform.  The letter, co-signed by more than 40 authors, called for a reversal of the policy and expressed dismay that the Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling MP, has declined to meet with campaigners.

Read the letter in full.


© Prisonimage.org

Earlier, a larger delegation that included Dame Margaret Drabble, Miriam Halamy, Kathy Lette, Ruth Padel and Sarah Waters met with Shadow Secretary of State for Justice Sadiq Khan MP, who reiterated his pledge to reverse the policy.


© Prisonimage.org

This morning, author and poet Jackie Kay appeared on BBC Breakfast to lend her voice to the campaign.  Jackie was the judge of English PEN’s 2014 prison writing competition.  You can read the winning and runner-up entries in our anthology Running to Stand Still, published earlier this year and available online.

jackie kay booksforprisoners

There is still time for English PEN members and supporters to sign a petition against this policy on Change.org.

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5 Comments on “English PEN takes the Books for Prisoners campaign to Downing Street”

  1. I was an OU Tutor in Ireland during the ‘troubles’. Derek Warner, Director of Prison Education in Ireland after fruitless meetings with mainstream Universites to ask them to sponsor Courses for Prisoners and Prison Officers. All refused.
    My Courses were Sociology based.
    The Department of Justice also agreed that Prison Officers could undertake OU Courses.
    A number of Provisional I. R. A took up the Courses and were very able students.
    The contribution of the OU to the Peace Process has yet to be evaluated.
    There was never any real censor to material or Assignments.
    The irony is that material from a UK University and course costs were met by the Department of Justice in Ireland for prisoners whose ideology was anti British.
    It is an example of good prison management with no break of agreement.
    Any outside books were acquired.
    When the Maze Prison closed, the Linenhall Library requested the prison library for its Political Collection, which is unique as it holds all political material from all shades since 18Cty.

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