Saturday, March 29, 2014

The prison books ban

I've just read about a most horrendous thing perpetrated on our next door island, which throws a country that can often claim to be the most civilised nation in the world back into the Dark Ages.

Last November, Britain's Justice Secretary Chris Grayling stopped the sending of books and other necessities in parcels from families and friends to prisoners.

Writers, journalists and representatives of many human rights organisations are now, justifiably, incensed at what is clearly a very mean attempt to gain credibility with the hard liners who want prisons to be deeply punishing instead of places where rehabilitation might be possible.

Grayling is now at the receiving end of a massive backlash, including an online petition that has already received more than 3,000 signatories.

The UK's Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright has tried to defend the move, saying there are libraries in all prisons, and prisoners can have up to 12 books in their cells at any given time.

Protestors counter by noting that prison libraries are suffering the same cutbacks as any other such facility, and that anyhow the prisoners might have special interests that aren't catered for by the limited prison library services, and depend on family and friends to provide what they need.

The issue has raised discussion on whether the UK government is at all interested in rehabilitation and education in its prisons, especially against a background of prisoners often being confined to their cells for an much as 20 hours a day.

It's just basically bad. But it prompts me to wonder — and I will make it my business to find out — if similar restrictions apply here?