Recently the UK Justice Secretary Chris Grayling (often known as the Injustice Secretary) issued an edict banning the sending of books into jails. It’s caused, quite rightly, much outrage.
I have worked in several women’s jails, not as a Prison Officer, but a a Nurse Counsellor and more recently as an education worker for the charity Women in Prison. Strange as it may seem I always enjoyed working with the women and found they were keen and pro-active to improve their knowledge and qualifications.
Prisoners rarely get paid to be in education, often actually loosing wages as a result of choosing to learn. To me this is crazy. Often the reason women find themselves the wrong side of the law is because they have made, or been forced by circumstances to make, wrong choices. Educating women (and men) so they can earn money legally and provide for their families needs to be incentivised, not financially penalised.
Prisons and prisoners need books. As well as providing vital knowledge, they are also encourage women to improve their literacy and they often begin to discuss books and the issues than arise from what they have read.
For me, books keep me sane. I use a Kindle Paperwhite these days. Essential, as reading ordinary print is difficult for me and my clouding cataracts mean I need the background light.
Despite having a flat full of books I have to confess to still buying more books! If something new is published about one of my specialist interests, I will invariably get myself a copy.
Whether I’m reading crime fiction escapism or a fascinating biography, I am usually able to immerse myself into that world. I cannot imagine being deprived or restricted in my choice of books.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, the Russian Philosopher wrote; ‘You can judge a society by how it treats it’s prisoners.’ One of the best ways of helping people become better citizens is enabling them to improve themselves. By denying prisoners books, we deny them rehabilitation.