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Prisons: Publications

Question for Ministry of Justice

UIN 286080, tabled on 3 September 2019

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of the Howard League for Penal Reform's review of access to books in prisons; and if he will make a statement.

Answered on

9 September 2019

Education is key to helping prisoners break a cycle of reoffending, therefore it is essential that prisoners have access to books and libraries. The prison library aims to provide an accessible service which has a focus on supporting learning, improving literacy and to promote reading as a source of pleasure and wider cultural engagement.

There may be several operational reasons why books posted to a prisoner would be returned to sender, including volumetric control on property or if the item fails security screening (for example if it’s impregnated with psychoactive substances). Governors may also restrict an individual’s access to some specific reading material on a case-by-case basis in accordance with HMPPS’s Public Protection Manual, in light of the prisoner’s offence or offending behaviour work.

In April we launched new education contracts to enable prisons to shape the way prisoners had access to libraries. Prisons could continue to receive library provision from its Local Authority or opt into new provision through the Prison Education Framework (PEF). Family and friends of prisoners are able to send books in directly. They may also order books via the approved book retailers scheme (as set out in Prison Service Instruction 30/2013). Prisoners are also able to purchase books with monies earned in prison or where sent in by family and friends.

Prisons must provide the opportunity for prisoners to rehabilitate, which will ultimately reduce reoffending – access to books forms an extremely important part of this.

Named day
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