Lord Alton of Liverpool – 2014 Parliamentary Question to the Ministry of Justice

The below Parliamentary question was asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool on 2014-03-27.

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what consideration they are giving to the Howard League for Penal Reform’s request to the Ministry of Justice to reverse their ban on family and friends sending books to prisoners.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire

There are important reasons why we have restricted the sending in of parcels by families and friends of prisoners and we do not intend to withdraw those restrictions. The changes we introduced last year in relation to parcels were to ensure consistency across the estate and to make sure that security can be maintained. There have always been controls on the sending of parcels into prisons, and allowing parcels to be sent in unrestricted would be operationally unmanageable and would lead to a significant risk of drugs and other illicit items being smuggled into prisons.

We have always recognised the importance of reading and literature in the rehabilitative process, and the positive effects these have on prisoners’ welfare. Every prison has a library, to which every prisoner has access. Prisoners may hold up to 12 books in their cell at any one time, and additional books can be stored locally at the prison. The National Offender Management Service also works closely with the Shannon Trust to support schemes such as ‘Toe by Toe’, which includes peer mentoring to improve reading levels.