Poet Laureate takes on prisoner book ban with Pentonville protest

Protests against the Grayling rule on being sent books continue - but will the secretary of state back down?
Protests against the Grayling rule on being sent books continue - but will the secretary of state back down?
Ian Dunt By

Carol Ann Duffy, Britain's Poet Laureate, will take the lead in the campaign against the prisoner book ban on Friday with a poetry protest outside Pentonville prison.

The demonstration, which is being given the title 'The Ballad Of Not Reading In Gaol', will see Duffy encouraging members of the public to join her and read out their favourite poems for someone behind bars.

The protest comes days after a large group of leading authors wrote letters to the Telegraph and the Evening Standard demanding the justice secretary reverse a ban on prisoners being sent books.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: "We are delighted that so many famous authors and other eminent figures in the arts are supporting our campaign to ensure friends and family can send books and other essentials to prisoners behind bars.

"That the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy has volunteered to arrange this reading outside Pentonville speaks volumes about the opposition that the Ministry of Justice faces on this ill-thought-out and petty measure."

Chris Grayling is standing firm on the rule although he is appearing increasingly isolated.


Earlier today, the chief inspector of prisons, the former governor of Pentonville and the chief executive of prisoners' union POA express their opposition to the policy.

Other speakers reading poems at the event will include:

  • Kathy Lette
  • Vanessa Redgrave
  • Samuel West
  • April De Angelis
  • Ruth Padel
  • David Hare
  • Stella Feehily
  • AL Kennedy
  • Sadie Jones
  • Tracy Chevalier

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