Voices for the Library reports that Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, plans to restrict prisoners’ access to books and prison library services as part of changes to the punishment and reward system.
The move reinforces the idea of a prison system that is merely punitive rather than playing a rehabilitative role, preparing many citizens for reinsertion.
Access to books and reading extends opportunities for social participation, encourages reflection and helps develop a sense of social responsibility. It expands our ability to think about alternatives and evaluate our options, which for some may lead to strategies for avoiding criminal behaviour.
“Prisoners see themselves differently; they gain confidence and self-esteem. They talk about having hope for the future, often for the first time. They feel able to envisage a different future and develop new aspirations for themselves.” (Prisoners Education Trust 2008, p.2)
Furthermore where would some of our greatest literary works and writers be without access to paper, pen and reading material? To list but a few books at least partly written in while in prison:
The Travels of Marco Polo
Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes
A Hymn to the Pillory, Daniel Defoe
De Profundis, Oscar Wilde
Our Lady of Flowers, Jean Genet
Justine, Marquis de Sade
Thomas Malory, Richard Lovelace, Walter Rayleigh, Chidiock Tichborne, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jack London, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela…(Oh and Mein Kampf by a certain Adolf somebody or other, but that doesn’t really serve my point so…)