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UK Bans Sending Books To Prisoners 220

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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  • 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @08:18AM (#46582905)

    No, there is nothing reasonable about it. And, in the UK, as access to legal aid becomes severely reduced and private enterprises are being given contracts to cover all stages of the judicial process (from cop shop through prison management to probation), it's simply turning into a profit-making industry where everyone who lacks the money is milked.

    The only useful purpose of prison is to protect society from dangerous individuals while they are being rehabilitated. Denying access to books does not help with this.

  • If you're in prison, that's it, you're in prison.

    Who put you there? Why are you and all these other people in there? Are you going to end up coming back here again? Why didn't we just shoot you the moment the judge struck the gavel? Is a prison supposed to have more functions than appeasing Daily Mail readers with petty acts of vindictiveness?

  • by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @08:31AM (#46582981) Journal
    Withholding access to the television, perhaps (gasp!) forcing some prisoners to read, might be a better behavior modification tool.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @08:39AM (#46583035)

    Prison is also about rehabilitation, or at least it's meant to be.
    Whilst a bulky package does carry with it a certain amount of security risk, that's what the guard(s) screening the mail are meant to remove.

    This is purely another means of control over an individual which goes beyond what society should be expecting from the penal system.

    It serves very little real purpose other than proving a politician can and will do something silly if given half a chance.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @08:41AM (#46583053)

    and at a time when they're going on about

    "they" always go on about "massive amounts of drugs".

    And it's not "dead easy" to hide drugs in books if the books are searched and tested for residue, which they will be anyway.

    And, no, you can't send prisoners arbitrary amounts of money to buy anything they want. Clearly. Then a rich prisoner could have whatever they wanted.

    And prisoners do not need to be grateful for anything - especially not in a society which only provides access to justice to the rich, and which imprisons people for things like TV licence evasion.

    And punishing people for the sake of punishing them is pure, ineffective sadism.

    And digital copy? For the WiFi and laptops you think they get to use from their beds? Are you high?

    Finally, it's way more important for prisoners to be able to occupy their minds to their fullest extent than it is to stop them taking drugs. Although you might want to take a little less of what you are taking.

  • Re:England != UK (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Simon Brooke ( 45012 ) <> 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.

  • 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....

  • by RockClimbingFool ( 692426 ) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @10:11AM (#46583703)

    You have just described the current state of affairs in the USA.

    The war on drugs produces the raw materials (IE, people to put through the system).

    The harvesters (the police) get paid for spotting, cutting down and initial rough processing of the raw materials.

    The courts (attorneys and judges) do the separating and grading of the rough cut materials.

    City and County lockup (jails) do the fine detailing to turn graded rough cut materials into finished products (real, full fledged prisoners)

    They then and sell them to businesses (State and Federal prisons) that need the finished products (slave labor prisoners). Call it a business to business transaction.

    State and Federal prisons then use their purchased products (slave labor prisoners) in their various industries (manufacturing of electronics, weapons components for the defense industry, you name it).

    After the finished product is used up (released from prison), they are recycled and put back through the process.

  • If we allow retribution to be a part of the sentence we have a problem since the victims will have vastly different ideas of what an appropriate sentence is. The punishment will then no longer be able to fit the crime, some victims will ask for execution while others will be able to forgive and forget.

    You seem to be assuming that people are only imprisoned for actions that have a victim. Unfortunately, all too often the only victim is the one who's being incarcerated, e.g., for drug possession, etc.

  • by beelsebob ( 529313 ) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @11:13AM (#46584193)


    Prison as a punishment simply does not work. It has been shown repeatedly that it doesn't work, both generally (that negative reinforcement sucks), and that that specific case does not work.

    The only reasonable goal of a prison is protection of society.

  • by RabidReindeer ( 2625839 ) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @11:56AM (#46584563)

    That comes under the category of deterrence.

    Huh? How is "protecting society" a punishment?

    It's a consequence of being in prison, which itself is the punishment. Violent criminals aren't deterred by the threat of "protecting society", they're deterred by the threat of being locked up.

    If criminals were really all that deterred by the threat of being locked up. Or tormented. Or killed, then crime would have been ended the first time a prisoner was punished.

    Criminals don't think that way. Even when the penalties involve being hanged, drawn and quartered, criminals keep committing crimes. They either don't care, or think they won't get caught, or think they will manage to avoid the full force of retribution.

    We've had thousands of years and innumerable practical "experiments" that demonstrate beyond doubt that you cannot impose virtue externally, be it by force of arms, force of law, or force of religion. The only thing that really keeps people from committing crimes is if you can convince them not to try at all. And there are strong indications that this might be as much a medical/psychological problem as a strictly moral one.

    And one, that, so far we have relatively little success in dealing with on a practical basis.

    Punishment may satisfy the vindictive, but to have any moral credibility, the punishment must FOLLOW the crime. And that means that damage has already been done. As a deterrent, it's pretty useless, and if it's too extreme can actually cause criminals to compound their crimes in an attempt to avoid the punishment.

  • by MeNotU ( 1362683 ) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @01:10PM (#46585405)
    Not to mention victimless crimes like taking a picture of your kids.
  • 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.

  • by JeffAtl ( 1737988 ) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @02:05PM (#46585975)

    For many crimes, punishment is not really required. For example, if a person is in prison for drug possession and is rehabilitated, while should punishment matter.

    Also, emphasis on punishment can actually hurt society as a whole. If a person is not already animal when he goes into prison, he will be when he gets out.

    I knew that the US criminal justice system was screwed up. It's pretty sad that europe is headed that way too.

The unfacts, did we have them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.