UK Prime Minister David Cameron has thrown his weight behind the widely criticized policy introduced by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling of banning book deliveries to prisoners. After refusing to meet a delegation of writers and intellectuals at No.10 Downing Street, Cameron has replied to the protest letter they delivered, pointing out that “the Government has not banned prisoners’ access to books” – something that no one accused the government of doing in the first place.

In his note, here courtesy of The Guardian, Cameron points out that “there is statutory library provision for every prison”, and that “should a prisoner wish to have access to a book not available in the library they can put in a request for it to be supplied.” Somewhat ironic from a government that has been presiding over the decimation of statutory library services outside the prison system. With a characteristically Conservative free-market spin, Cameron also noted that prisoners “can also use their own funds to buy books.”

In his previous comments on the decision, Grayling raised favorite bugbears of the current administration such as “the risk of paedophiles in our prisons accessing illegal written pornographic material through print materials” and the possibility of parcels containing drugs. Sending pedophile literature in named and addressed parcels to inmates of a prison doesn’t sound an especially smart or likely scenario, but Grayling evidently thought it worth risking a reputation for stupidity in order to get this little implied smear into the press.

Interestingly, nowhere in the debate has anyone apparently mentioned ebooks and ereaders, which presumably would get around all issues of space and even screening. However, the idea of giving Kindles to prisoners might have appeared too much to a government eager to score cheap political points by appearing tough on criminals.


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