Britain, Books, Politics: Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan Said “The Ban on Sending Books to Prisoners Was Always an Absurd Policy”

stock: Chilling Events in Sorcery as told by Sabrina, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, 1972, Archie Comics,

If you had to hide drugs, would you hide them in a book?

I wouldn’t. And if I was relying on drugs as either a balm or a currency during time spent in prison, would you say “well the exact thing she doesn’t need in her life is books?”

No! Because you aren’t a bonehead. Luckily, neither is Mr Justice Collins of the High Court. I mean, maybe he is, I don’t know the guy. But on the subject of books in prisons, he’s pretty OK.

Judgement regarding a recent and silly ban on prisoners receiving parcels, specifically parcels of books, from friends, family, and generous publishing professionals, was made last week on the fifth. Said Collins:

I see no good reason in the light of the importance of books for prisoners to restrict beyond what is required by volumetric control and reasonable measures relating to frequency of parcels and security considerations.

During the ban, books were available to incarcerated people via their prisons’ libraries, or through the prison shop. I don’t know how wages run in prison, but I do know that I have spent my life outside of prison and have never been solvent enough to buy all the books I needed to feed my head. This paragraph, from Jeremy Wright quoted in the Guardian, suggests an unbearably patronising attitude from those making the rules that expresses rather well how anybody could take it upon themselves to deny sentenced adults what solicitors involved call “a right:” voracious reading.

“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.”


The case was pushed by the legal team of a woman with a doctorate in English Literature. She doesn’t deserve books any more than any other individual in her institution — I mention the doctorate to remind you, if you’re unconvinced, that reading is important enough to people that they’ll spend time, money, and years for it, and arrange their life around the study of it. And when you’re somebody such as Barbara Goron-Jones, who struggles with a compulsion to set fires, and depression, good grief! You need those books! Have a little compassion for a mind that needs to get things in place.

Libraries are great, but they can be slow and empty (again: that’s outside of prison). Stopping people from receiving books from the outside world? Send you to jail, buddy. This is a matter so serious that I found myself in agreement with even my enemy, Anthony Horowitz. Large campaigns were mounted to support the legal process necessary to remove the prohibition of book parcels (the status of non-book parcels remains mysterious) to prisoners.

So this is great news. But it’s not the end of things, is it? The people, they remain within the prisons. Sounds like hell to me! What can you do?

This site may be waiting on updates, but for now it’s a start. Give a Book helps books get into prisons in the UK. Donate to Haven to support textbook and learning resource access in British prisons. For the US, try here or here. Just Google it, I’m not the boss of you!

All books must be shipped from a leading book provider. We highly recommend Amazon because they have a great reputation and their packages are most likely to be accepted by the prison staff.

Don’t try and save money sending used books to an inmate as they will not be accepted. It has to be new books only.

Claire Napier

Claire Napier

Critic, ex-Editor in Chief at WWAC, independent comics editor; the rock that drops on your head. Find me at and give me lots of money