Authors blast Chris Grayling's 'vindictive act' of banning prisoners from receiving books

Philip Pulman (above) said the new law was 'disgusting, mean and vindictive'

Senior Reporter

A group of leading authors have launched a furious attack on the Government for banning prisoners from receiving books to read in jail.

The new rules, which came into force in November, prevent inmates from receiving parcels from the outside unless they have “exceptional circumstances” such as a medical condition. Books, subscription magazines and clothing such as spare socks and underwear are all prohibited.

A petition on the Change.org website calling on Justice Secretary Chris Grayling to rethink the move had last night gathered more than 5,500 signatures as authors including Philip Pullman, Mark Haddon, Anthony Horowitz, Susan Hill and Emma Donoghue united in condemnation.

Mark Haddon, the bestselling author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, told The Independent it was a “counterproductive” policy. “It’s a gratuitous and mean-spirited punishment which fails to acknowledge the vital part books play in educating and rehabilitating prisoners,” he said.

“[Mr Grayling] is playing to the gallery, I suspect, and not thinking about what’s best for society. Today’s prisoners will be your neighbours tomorrow.”

Anthony Horowitz, author of the Alex Rider series of spy novels, said he was in regular correspondence with a young inmate serving a life term for murder but was shocked to discover that he could not send him any of his books.

“Books represent humanity and civilization, two abstracts which may be in short demand in the prison environment,” he added.

Anthony Horowitz: I was astonished that I could not send an inmate one of my books

Susan Hill, author of The Woman in Black, said: “Given that the books sent in would be screened for drugs or offensive weapons and any removed entitled ‘How To Escape’, I am baffled as to Grayling’s reasoning. You judge a society by how it treats its prisoners. Banning books is the first thing dictators in totalitarian states do.”

Philip Pullman, the author of fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials, said on Twitter that the rules amounted to “one of the most disgusting, mean, vindictive acts of a barbaric government”, while Emma Donoghue, author of the Booker Prize-nominated Room, added: “Reading and study would seem to me to be one of the only worthwhile ways of spending a prison day.”

Mary Beard, the historian and Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge, wrote: “Books educate & rehabilitate. Crazy to ban them being sent to prisoners in jail… It just can’t be a sensible idea.”

Although prisoners are able to borrow books from their prison library, these services are usually provided by local councils, which have been subjected to severe budget cuts since the Coalition came to power.

According to one estimate in January, 453 libraries across England and Wales had either closed or were facing imminent closure since April 2013. A spokeswoman for the Howard League for Penal Reform said prison libraries were often “the first to go” and had “ never been brilliant” in the first place.

She added that there was also anecdotal evidence that separate cuts to the National Offender Management Service, which runs prisons and probation, meant there was now a lack of staff to escort prisoners from their cells to the libraries, so accessing books at all had become increasingly difficult.

“As families and friends are now forbidden from sending basic items into prison, prisoners are sitting in stinking cells, wearing dirty clothes, with nothing to do and not even a book to read,” said Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League. “We urge the Government to reconsider this draconian measure.”

Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright said: “All prisoners can have up to 12 books in their cells at any one time, and all prisoners have access to the prison library. Under the Incentives and Earned Privileges scheme, if prisoners engage with their rehabilitation and comply with the regime they can have greater access to funds to buy items including books.”

Read more: Inmates should be encouraged to read as much as they like
Arts and Entertainment

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade

radio
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?