The Solicitor - The FindLaw UK Life, Family and Workplace Law Blog

UK policy banning books sent to prisoners may face challenge

A UK Government policy that prohibits the sending of literature to prisoners is to be challenged by a woman serving a life sentence, who claims the ban on books has left her in despair, reports the BBC.

The ban on books was introduced in November last year by the Ministry of Justice, and is part of a raft of measures designed to restrict what can be sent in to prisoners in parcels.

The policy is known as the Incentives and Earned Privileges Scheme, and was introduced in November as part of a reform to the way that prisoners earn privileges.

The policy bans certificate 18 films and subscription channels from all prisons, and introduces a national standard for prison incentives. Every prisoner is given a level at which they can receive incentives. Bad behaviour is punished with a downgrading of the level of incentive.

Speaking of the changes, the Justice Secretary said at the time: "For too long the public has seen prisoners spending their days languishing in their cells watching TV, using illegal mobile phones to taunt their victims on Facebook or boasting about their supposedly easy life in prisons."

"This is not right and it cannot continue," he added.

Books sent within parcels form part of the incentives, meaning that many prisoners are now denied the opportunity to receive literature.

Lawyers representing the woman bringing that test case say that the books she receives in prison are a lifeline to help her through her life sentence.

"She is an epilepsy sufferer, very highly qualified and she has said her life is in despair without access to these books, which have really been taking her through this life sentence that she will serve," said Emily Maitlis, the BBC correspondent reporting the story.

The MoJ says that the time to appeal the policy has now passed, but the prisoner's lawyers say that the effects of the policy are only being felt now.

The MoJ justifies the policy on books because they are often used to smuggle drugs into prisons.