Restricting prisoners’ access to books ruled unlawful

10 Dec 2014

Prisoners’ Education Trust welcomes the decision by the High Court on Friday 5th December and hopes that it will lead to prisoners having better access to books.

The rules introduced in November 2013 under the Incentives and Earned Privileges scheme prevent prisoners from receiving certain items in the post including books. 

Rod Clark, Chief Executive, Prisoners’ Education Trust, said:

“It is welcome news that now, after more than a year of limited access to books, Mr Justice Collins has ruled these restrictions unlawful and we hope they will now be lifted.

"Reading should not be seen as a privilege, it is a right and one that is hugely beneficial in helping to rehabilitate people in prison.

“Clearly reading is essential for any student and as we have heard from many of our learners if some books are not available in prison libraries they rely on families and friends sending them in. This aspect of loved ones being able to show their support to learners was recognised as most important in the court ruling.”

PET submitted a witness statement in support of this case, in which we highlighted the importance of access to a wide range of reading material for our learners who study subjects including GCSEs, A-levels and degrees.

Libraries can provide a solution for some people, but not for anyone with specialist requirements as one learner told us: “I am studying 'A' level history. Text books and access to suggested preferred extra reading is difficult i.e. funding and lack of availability through a non-academic prison library.” 

In our recent report Brain Cells based on a survey of nearly 350 prisoners, 58% of respondents said better access to books would help them learn and many said library access was poor.

Editor's Notes

The High Court judgment, referencing PET’s witness statement in support of this case, is available here: http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/judgments/the-queen-oao-barbara-gordon-jones-v-the-secretary-of-state-for-justice-and-other/

The restrictions on books for prisoners are part of (PSI 23/2013 Para 7.1) under the Incentives and Earned Privileges Scheme.

Download the full report Brain Cells: Listening to Prisoner Learners (Third Edition), September 2014

For interviews, photos or further information from PET please contact Susannah Henty (PET), Media Manager: Susannah@prisonerseducation.org.uk; 020 3752 5680 or visit www.prisonerseducation.org.uk

About PET

Since 1989, Prisoners’ Education Trust (PET) has supported prisoners to engage in rehabilitation through learning. The charity does this by providing advice and funding for approximately 2,000 people per year for distance learning courses in subjects and levels not generally available in prisons. PET also carries out research, informed by prisoner learners, to improve prison education policies.