I’ve just read something that’s left me utterly gobsmacked. You know when you read something, and your first thought is, it’s not the 1st of April yet, is it?
I’m afraid I’m rather out of touch with the news these days; if it’s not reported on my local radio station at 7:30am, the chances are I probably won’t hear about it. But every now and then I go and take a look at the news sites, and see if anything of note is taking place. Today I stumbled across this piece in the Guardian about the banning of books in prisons.
Apparently in November, the justice minister Christ Grayling, decreed that prisoners may not receive any parcels from outside of the prison unless there are “exceptional circumstances.”
Is it just me, or does this all sound a bit… Orwellian?
I would have thought, unless their granny is posting them a copy of the Anarchist’s Cook Book, we should be encouraging prisoners to read books? I find it utterly barbaric that we should be saying to people, “well, you’re in prison, for whatever reason, and you have no freedom… and now you can’t have a book either. Stare at that wall until you go absolutely potty.”
You know when you go to the doctor’s, and you’ve forgotten to take a book and all the magazines are 5-year-old copies of Home and Garden, so you think “oh, I’ll just sit here and wait, it won’t be long…” and by the time the doctor calls you in twenty minutes later, you’re practically climbing the walls? I can’t even imagine being locked in a confined space for such large amounts of time with no book.
Obviously, if you’re in prison you’ve done something wrong and are not there to have a little holiday… but on the other hand, I would consider reading and books a basic human right. Even inmates on death row in the States are allowed to receive parcels from the public. We don’t have a death row here, just people in prison cells, bored to death.
Since the majority of inmates are from the lower end of society, under educated, abused, living lives tinged with lack whether in or out of prison, shouldn’t we be doing whatever we can to help them help themselves? If for no other reason than to avoid having them re-offend and end up spending more time wasting tax payers’ money in prison? Reading is a massive part of that rehabilitation; arguably the most important part.
At the very darkest, bleakest times in my life, it has often been books that have pulled me through. When I had my breakdown and went absolutely batshit crazy, I bought numerous memoirs of depression and mental illness, and read them from cover to cover. As I started to recover, I read different books. That summer, sitting on benches and in coffee shops all over town, I read my way through a small library. I honestly do not think I could have recovered, had I not had access to books.
When I had S and felt completely lost at sea, I turned to books again. At one point I had a table next to the sofa so laden with books I had to start piling them on the floor. I would read, and read, and read about parenting and premature babies and different approaches to sleeping and brain development and of course What To Expect. Although I disagreed with a lot of what I read, I kept on reading. I’m still reading.
Even now, there are more books in my house than DVDs. There are possibly even more books than toys. And S has a lot of toys. My kindle is so stuffed with books it often crashes and I have to reset it and delete some of the ones I’ve read.
Books are my life; my life is books.
I could not live without books.
The thought that we are depriving prisoners of books absolutely disgusts me; I find the notion abhorrent that we would deprive those who arguably most in need of what books have to offer.
Support, companionship, escape, knowledge. Freedom. A great book can make you feel free.
Is it so bad to think that someone locked in a tiny cell for most of the day might learn to find pleasure from reading a book rather than from taking drugs or having fights or stealing things, or whatever else they may have done to land themselves in prison in the first place?
I understand the part about locking people up when they’ve done wrong; but what happened to the part about rehabilitating them so that they don’t do it again? Or are we just hoping that they’ll be rehabilitated by sewing mail bags and mopping floors?


Vicky is a mother, a blogger, a podcaster and a social media trainer. She writes about life as a single mother, parenting and lifestyle type things.

1 Comment

Elaine Livingstone · 31/03/2014 at 21:24

certainly in Scottish Prisons we cannot hand in books to inmates, they must be bought new through amazon and posted straight to the prison so dont know if that side of it will be affected. <br />I agree books should be allowed, and they can be passed from prisoner to prisoner. Are they doing away with the libraries as well?

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