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UK Bans Sending Books To Prisoners 220

Posted by Soulskill
from the because-thoughts-are-dangerous dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes: "Alan Travis and Mark Tran report in The Guardian that new rules introduced by the justice secretary in the UK ban anyone sending in books to prisoners It's part of a new earned-incentives and privileges scheme, which allows better-behaved prisoners to get better access to funds to buy their own books. But members of Britain's literary establishment have combined to condemn Justice Secretary Chris Grayling's ban on sending books to prisoners. 'While we understand that prisons must be able to apply incentives to reward good behavior by prisoners, we do not believe that education and reading should be part of that policy,' says a letter signed by more than 80 leading authors. 'Books represent a lifeline behind bars, a way of nourishing the mind and filling the many hours that prisoners spend locked in their cells. In an environment with no internet access and only limited library facilities, books become all the more important.' Prime Minister David Cameron's official spokesman says the prime minister backs the ban on receiving books and entirely supports Grayling, whose department imposed the ban to preserve a rigid system of rewards and punishments for prisoners and said there was no need for prisoners to be sent books as prisoners could borrow from prison libraries and keep some reading material in their cells. However a former prisoner told the Guardian that although libraries existed, access could be severely restricted, particularly in closed prisons. 'I've been in places where prisoners only get 20 minutes a week to visit the library and change books.'"
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UK Bans Sending Books To Prisoners

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  • "Please, sir, I want some more"
    • by mjwx (966435)

      "Please, sir, I want some more"

      That's "may I have some more".

      /whips out cane.

      You insolent little whelp, I'll teach you some respect for the Queens English.

  • Oh well. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lisaparratt (752068) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @08:14AM (#46582881)

    I guess it's more important to keep the slaves in check, and the ministers looking good to the far right, than it is to rehabilitate the prisoners.

    • Re:Oh well. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by BasilBrush (643681) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @08:17AM (#46582897)

      Yeah, heaven forbid we should end up with well-read ex-cons. They'll be having ideas above their stations.

    • Fill in the blanks:

      An __ _______ (Latin for "to the man" or "to the person"), short for argumentum __ _______, is a general category of fallacies in which a claim or argument is rejected on the basis of some irrelevant fact about the author of or the person presenting the claim or argument.

    • by spacepimp (664856)

      I think the fact is they can help finance their costs by mandating their earned books silo. I think there is likely to be some sort of cost structure planning this was intended to help bolster.

  • England != UK (Score:5, Informative)

    by Titus Groan (2834723) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @08:29AM (#46582959)
    I feel like I'm repeating myself a lot. England & Wales does not equal the UK. This ban does not apply to Scotland where the prison service is a devolved body. Sending books to prisoners is only banned in PART of the UK.
    • Re:England != UK (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Simon Brooke (45012) <stillyet@googlemail.com> on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @08:46AM (#46583089) Homepage Journal

      I feel like I'm repeating myself a lot. England & Wales does not equal the UK. This ban does not apply to Scotland where the prison service is a devolved body. Sending books to prisoners is only banned in PART of the UK.

      I was just about to post an almost identical comment when I saw yours.

      If Alabama does something completely ridiculous in its penal system no-one says that 'the US is doing this...' For US readers, it may be helpful for you to think of England as the UK's Alabama. In the south, and governed by ignorant, prejudiced and reactionary people.

      • They usually do on slashdot then go on to tie it to somehow tie it to corporations and big business.

      • If Alabama does something completely ridiculous in its penal system no-one says that 'the US is doing this...'

        Outside the US? Yeah, they do, actually.

    • Helpful diagram [qntm.org]
  • by ciderbrew (1860166) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @08:30AM (#46582973)
    If they spent the same on education as they did on locking people up per year then maybe you wouldn't have to lock so many people up.
    • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @09:39AM (#46583465)

      If they spent the same on education as they did on locking people up per year then maybe you wouldn't have to lock so many people up.

      So, your proposal is that they reduce the Education budget by 95% or so?

      A quick Google shows that the UK Education budget is ~88 billion Pounds, their Prison budget is ~4 billion Pounds.

      Now, perhaps that was really a dig at the USA, and so the UK budgets are meaningless...

      Of course, US total Education spending is on the order of one trillion Dollars (including Department of Education, which is a whopping $53 billion of that), while the total spent on prisons (including such off(prison)-budget items as pensions for guards) is ~40 billion Dollars.

      Which would again suggest you're in favour of lowering Education budgets in the States by ~95% (more like 96%, but the symmetry is nice).

      In other words, can we ditch that tired old trope? It only works because most everyone is ignorant, and most everyone likes to exaggerate for effect, and it gets old real fast once you start googling the numbers....

      • OMG, you're right! The UK prison population and children in education is exactly the same.
        • by Valdrax (32670)

          Funny, because you're the one who made the comparison without understanding the order of magnitude difference in the first place.

      • by careysub (976506)

        The OP did not state it very well, but it would appear that he has in mind the fact that the cost of keeping a person in prison is more than the cost of sending them to college, year for year.

        Of course with the school age population of Great Britain (which does not count college age people) being about 18% of the total, and its prison population amounting to 0.14% of the population, a ratio of 130-to-1 it would be incredible for the absolute cost of imprisoning the second to exceed the cost of educating the

      • by Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @01:41PM (#46585751)

        So, your proposal is that they reduce the Education budget by 95% or so?

        A quick Google shows that the UK Education budget is ~88 billion Pounds, their Prison budget is ~4 billion Pounds.

        It only works because most everyone is ignorant, and most everyone likes to exaggerate for effect, and it gets old real fast once you start googling the numbers....

        You are either willfully or ignorantly misinterpreting the point you are refuting. There is an (ofttimes implicit) assumption that the budget is per capita. Since there are 120 students per prisoner in the UK (122 if we count University students), the amount spent per prisoner is drastically more than the amount spent per student.

        • Yeah. However, it seems to me that we should spend more per prisoner, considering that the prison covers all living expenses for prisoners, and third-graders don't need the same level of fortification. I'd like to save money by having fewer prisoners (this applies especially to the US).

  • by rmdingler (1955220) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @08:31AM (#46582981)
    Withholding access to the television, perhaps (gasp!) forcing some prisoners to read, might be a better behavior modification tool.
  • To paraphrase Hannibal Lecter, a sane society would either kill them or let them have their books.
  • by evilandi (2800) <andrew@aoakley.com> on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @08:52AM (#46583125) Homepage

    The UK has a problem with Islamic extremist gangs in prisons. Printed material from external well-wishers and visitors is a huge contributory factor. This problem is far, far worse than any right-ring white gangs in US jails.

    For example at the high security prison near Evesham, there is a large gang who slash the faces of anyone who refuses to convert to their brand of Islam. This isn't widely acknowledged by the prisons service, but it leaks out through staff such as prison nurses, who have to deal with the end results.

    • by BasilBrush (643681) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @09:08AM (#46583243)

      I see the problem of islamic gang(s) that was highlighted at HMP Long Lartin.

      The parallels are not only to right-wing white gangs in US jails, but to black and hispanic gangs there. If there's enough inmates feeling that they have a common kinship, then they are quite likely to form a gang, and of course bully those who are not in the gang into conformity with the gangs norms.

      The problem there seems to be that the Muslim population has reached 25% in that particular prison, presumably many drawn from the islamic fundamentalists groups.

      But I don't see any reference to printed material having any bearing on this. Do you have a citation for that?

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      I don't see how banning books is going to help when the gang is persuading people with knives rather than reading material. Of course for politicians (rather than boots-on-the-ground prison staff and their inmates) it doesn't matter whether it actually is effective, just that it appears to be.

    • by spacepimp (664856)

      That is irrelevant, and should be handled by something that doesn't amount to strict thought control and censorship. If the UK wants to call a spade a spade they should just say they are banning texts to prevent ideas from spreading. Maybe good ideas maybe bad ideas but a threat to control none the less.

    • The UK has a problem with Islamic extremist gangs in prisons. Printed material from external well-wishers and visitors is a huge contributory factor. This problem is far, far worse than any right-ring white gangs in US jails.

      Bedwetting bullshit. If you go to prison, you're going to try and make friends with people like you to keep the resizing of your asshole to a minimum. And there's no shortage of crazy christian proselytizing in prison, or violent gangs of wasps, but ZOMG MOOOSLIMS!

      But if you really wa

  • Logically people who like to read are far more capable of controlling their behaviour and people who don't like to read are far less capable of controlling their behaviour (it comes with being willing to sit in one place and focusing concentration on a inactive pursuit). So this whole thing makes pretty much no sense at all. Seems much more like an attack on intellectual types to force cooperation not only upon them but on their associates outside of prison. So nothing to do with illegal activity within th

  • It's nice to see politicians from other countries trying to set a new standard of idiocy, and making ours in North America look okay by comparison.

    This serves no sane purpose whatsoever. Books are good. We *want* people reading more. Yes, even prisoners. What do you want them doing with their time if they're not reading? Nothing better will be done instead.

    This is the hair-brained scheme of some morons who got into power and don't have the slightest idea of what they're doing. It will accomplish absolutely

  • by Ukab the Great (87152) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @10:18AM (#46583761)

    To the prisoners making pencils out of toilet paper and writing their own underground novels, which are then sold for packs of cigarettes.

  • that if a prisoner misbehaves he, or she, may lose their reading privileges for a period of time. How can anyone argue against that completely reasonable policy?

  • It's not fair that prisoners get to read paper books that don't report the amount of time spent researching topics into the indelible event log of recorded history, while free and ignorant law-abiding citizens get their interests tracked and logged under the premise of protecting copyrights and giving convenience.
  • What if a prisoner wants to write his/her own book?
    • What if a prisoner wants to program in a VC-funded tech startup?

      Look, I don't like the idea of removing their books, but being in prison does prevent you from doing other things. And non-prison jobs are usually one thing it prevents.

      Also, access to a computer.

  • Prisons and books do have some conflicts. The idea that drugs like LSD can be placed on a page and be licked by inmates has been around for a while. There are also issues with prisoners setting paper on fire and throwing it from their cells. The end result is that if reading material is allowed it must be shipped directly from the publisher thus making reading unaffordable for inmates. Much of this is simply administrative nonsense and a way to justify wanting more employees in a prison system.
  • by BenSchuarmer (922752) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @12:35PM (#46585005)
    then only criminals who are criminals will get books

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