What can you send to UK prisons?
January 5, 2014 1:29 PM   Subscribe

What can you send to UK prisons - are books really banned now?

In November of 2013, the rules on what prisoners can be sent in the UK were tightened a lot. (They also lost privileges like being allowed to keep plenty of undewear in their cells, meaning women complain they cannot keep clean during their periods.) But being a wet white liberal, i can't quite believe it's true. I'm pretty certain the books in the prison library are going to be Young Adult Fiction For The Barely Literate. Does anyone know for certain if this is true?
posted by maiamaia to Law & Government (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
it varies prison to prison and with the level of restriction placed on the individual. Look up Prison Family Helpline for more information.
posted by parmanparman at 2:03 PM on January 5, 2014

You can send any books you want, direct from (e.g.) Amazon.
posted by ambrosen at 2:04 PM on January 5, 2014

I'd trust the second source you quoted (it's a 33 year old charity) and this has also been reported in the Independent (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/chris-grayling-branded-a-scrooge-for-banning-festive-parcels-for-prisoners-9023211.html) so not just Sky.

According to the article 'Prisoners must use their own wages to buy supplies and luxuries' so this could well be part of the ongoing privatisation of prisons. It's also likely a response to right-wing and tabloid complaints about prisoners being treated like human beings rather than tied up and fed gruel. The public perception (fed by tabloids) is that prisoners get to live lives of luxury with Sky TV etc. Nothing this government does surprises me any more. Their cruelty is beyond words.
posted by Dorothea_in_Rome at 4:34 PM on January 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Prison policy, like justice policy more widely, is devolved to Scotland and Northern Ireland so the changes you link to are limited to England and Wales and do not affect the whole of the UK. What's being referred to in the link is the recent review of the "Incentives and Earned Privileges" scheme - announcement here. The scheme provides different levels of entitlements over and above the bare minimum for prisoners who stick to the rules.

For chapter and verse you want to refer to the new Prison Service Instruction - guidance to governors, in other words - on this topic, which may well change the scheme ambrosen links to. It would appear to suggest that prisoners are only allowed one parcel at the start of their sentence unless there are exceptional circumstances. Books and similar items are instead to be bought through prison wages or any other income the prisoner may have.

There is also a Prison Service Instruction on prison libraries, which will give you a sense of what books are included.
posted by greycap at 12:44 AM on January 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the help. I was just surprised at books because isn't the sort of image the Tories & tabloids have of "what prisoners ought to be doing" reading books not watching telly? So there have been clampdowns on telly, but a clampdown on books seems odd, and possibly. The person I want to send to had quite a stellar professional career, so would usually read research papers, high-level technical books and whatever their idea of literature is.
posted by maiamaia at 12:36 PM on January 9, 2014

Response by poster: The government links aren't working in any browser, and all the non-governmental explanations focus on privilege levels, not details of privileges. There's a website called prison officer.org, but i can't register because i don't understand the 'templates' antispam question or i'd ask there. There's a press office number for the justice department, i think i may ring that tomorrow haha. Whatever definite result i find, will post.
posted by maiamaia at 12:39 PM on January 9, 2014

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