The High Court has ruled that the government’s ban on sending books to prisoners in England and Wales is unlawful.
Mr Justice Collins said that he could find “no good reason” to restrict prisoners’ access to books and “to refer to them as a privilege is strange”, agreeing that books can be useful in a prisoner’s rehabilitation.
In an attempt to prevent drugs and other contraband being smuggled into prisons, the government currently prevents prisoners from receiving parcels unless they have “exceptional circumstances”, such as a medical condition that requires treatment.
Prisoners were able to borrow books from the prison library, but campaigners argued that the libraries were often poorly stocked and there was often no staff available to take prisoners to them and they were no replacement to books being sent to them by friends and family members.
Barbara Gordon-Jones, sentenced to life in prison at Send Jail in Surrey, brought the legal challenge against the government’s ban on book parcels. Upon hearing the ruling, her solicitors said in a statement:
“Reading is a right and not a privilege, to be encouraged and not restricted,” they said.
“Indeed, Mr Justice Collins commented that, as far as books are concerned, ‘to refer to them as a privilege is strange’.
“The policy was unnecessary, irrational and counter-productive to rehabilitation. It is now rightly judged unlawful.”