Prisoner book gifts ban to stay

The Oxford Times: A ban on prisoners receiving books as gifts is to stay A ban on prisoners receiving books as gifts is to stay

A controversial ban on prisoners receiving books in jail will not be lifted, a Government minister has said.

Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright said "sensible" restrictions on packages being sent into prison were necessary for security reasons.

He said inmates should also be required to earn their "creature comforts" and that allowing them to receive books as gifts would undermine the incentive for them to do prison work during their time behind bars.

There was an outcry among authors after it emerged that new Ministry of Justice rules banning families from sending small parcels to prisoners meant they could no longer receive books.

Mr Wright rejected suggestions the Government was trying to deny prisoners access to books, saying they could still borrow them from prison libraries or use their earnings from prison work to buy them.

"If prisoners want a particular publication then they can order that. There are no other restrictions on them and they can get a book from a library just as the rest of us can," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"What we are talking about though is restricting the amount of material that comes into prisons. That is sensible because we need to have a check, for very obvious security reasons, on material that comes into prison.

"It is also sensible because we are trying to change the system so that prisoners earn the creature comforts that they have in their cells.

"If we allowed people to send things in without any restriction then that would entirely circumvent that very sensible process of giving prisoners those incentives."

The refusal of ministers to re-think the rules was angrily condemned by Mark Haddon, the author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.

"Even prisoners in Guantanamo Bay can get given books as gifts," he told the Today programme.

"We give children books because they are unequivocally good things which make them better people but we are apparently trying to make prisoners into better people by actually restricting their access to books as we are dealing with two entirely different species of human being."

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