Prisoner book ban comes to an end

The ban on prisoners receiving books in prison was brought to an end yesterday, after new regulations were introduced by the Ministry of Justice.

The annex to the Incentives and Earned Privileges Scheme in the Prison Service Instructions 2013 marks the culmination of a long campaign by writers, lawyers and prison reformers to have the draconian policy reversed.

The annex reads:

"Friends and families of prisoners are able, from 31 January 2015, to order books from approved retailers, who will source and send the books on to prisoners."

Prisoners will now be able to be sent an unlimited number of books from Blackwell's, Foyles, Waterstones or WH Smith.

They will also be able to send or hand in a book directly in "exceptional circumstances", which will include when a book is not available from the approved retailers.

The exceptional circumstances clause will allow many prisoners doing educational courses the ability to secure text books which are vital to their progress.

The exception to the ban on parcels will also include audio books.

The lifting of the ban comes nearly two months after the high court ruled it to be unlawful, following a judicial review by lawyers working pro-bono to challenge the Ministry of Justice.

The department did not appeal the ruling, but pushed back implementation until after Christmas so it would not be inundated by books being sent in in time for the holidays.

Chris Grayling's arguments for the ban were comprehensively dismissed by Mr Justice Collins, whose ruling concluded that to consider books a privilege "is strange".

But two weeks ago the justice secretary was still insisting that the policy did not exist.

He told Conservative Home:

"There was never a ban on books for prisoners. It was a fabrication by a left-wing pressure group."

The campaign against the prisoner book ban began when Howard League chief executive Frances Crook wrote a piece for