The Pentonville Protest

Some news stories do nothing but frustrate. And this is one of them: Justice minister Chris Grayling has imposed a ban on books in prisons. I can’t think of anything more idiotic. I understand the need to prevent illegal materials from entering the prison but surely there must be another way instead of banning books. Poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy was joined by many other figures from the arts in condemning the move in a recent protest outside Pentonville Prison. Author Kathy Lette summed up their stance with:

‘Books should not be a privilege: they are a staple. You might as well take away their food and water. If prisons are about rehabilitation, books are psychologically, emotionally and educationally nurturing and it is the best way to lift people up out of the rut they are in.’

How can we expect prisoners to reform, to be nurtured and to grow if we deny them the materials to do it?  The literary world has come together to protest the decision which came into force in November.  Everyone from Salman Rushdie to Vanessa Redgrave wants the ban to be overturned. Perhaps if Chris Grayling read more himself he might see the redemptive power that books have.

‘My task, which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel – it is, before all, to make you see.’

Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim


Sophie, Editorial Administrator

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