I gather our non-legal Justice Secretary is into banning books:
In one country prisoners can get four days off their sentence for every book they read, in another a ban on sending books to prisoners is being introduced.
The book ban is one aspect of a raft of measures introduced by justice secretary Chris Grayling which would appear to have no purpose other than to make the life of inmates just that little bit more unendurable, while making Mr Grayling look more of a tough guy to the public.
Anyone with any heart would deplore measures that include prisoners not being allowed to receive homemade birthday cards from their children, but as the chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform Frances [Crook] rightly says, the book ban is not just nasty but bizarre.
On the basis of one book/four days, I just hope Purgatory (if it exists) comes Brazilian.
Although prisoners are allowed to receive a “one-off” parcel after they have been convicted, Christmas presents are not distinguished from parcels and are banned. Prisoners must use their own wages to buy supplies and luxuries.
The Prison Reform Trust said it had already been contacted by several women prisoners who are struggling to get hold of clean underwear and other basic items.
Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Children are no longer permitted to send home-made calendars or gifts to dad in prison this Christmas.”
This is all called “rehabilitation”.
In my teens, I spent a dismal, wet, Christmas vacation in West Cork, with a succession of Atlantic gales thundering up Roaring Water Bay.
After a day or so, dark grey skies, raging surf and flying spume, seen through a rattling sash-window, lost their charm.
It’s not quite incarceration, but it drove me to read the whole oeuvre of Charles Dickens, and start on Thirties trash novels.
The end of the H-Blocks
I cannot testify to this one, but it was generally believed the closure of the Maze Prison enhanced Belfast’s Linen Hall Library.
From the Republican blocks came a remarkable collection of liberational, Marxist and theoretical texts.
From the Loyalists — allegedly — the swag was largely pornography and body-building.
[Kirsty Scott did a report for the Guardian which was a trifle less biased than my subjective summary.]