The Ministry of Justice of the United Kingdom has recently banned prisoners from receiving small items from their families, including books. Authors have raised criticism of this, calling it “barbaric”, “nasty”, “bizarre”, among other names, and have created a petition to allow prisoners access to books from outside.
I must agree that I can’t think of the reason the government wouldn’t let prisoners receive small items and books from their families. Are they afraid their families will hand them disguised bombs, or poison? I suppose if one thinks about the legend of the mooncake, soldiers and civilians exchanged secret messages by hiding them inside mooncakes, and it’s not unthinkable that many tiny items have been the source of secret messages over the years, perhaps allowing the prisoners to make planned getaways. And yet nobody is going to be satisfied with such a hypothetical contingency. Has there been an escape attempt in the UK or anywhere else lately spurring such an action? If not, what is the rationale of this act?
The article mentioned that prisoners are kept in their cells for hours, and their cells don’t afford much space to do much. Reading may be the best, most interesting thing prisoners can do. And who knows, if they’re that engrossed with a book, they may be distracted from thoughts of escaping. After all, an idle mind is the devil’s workshop, right?
I’m imagining a romantic scenario here where a prisoner is so eager to read some lengthy book series (like the Babysitters Club, which goes on for I believe 135 books or some such) that he is reluctant to break out of jail, for fear that he won’t be able to catch up with reading while on the run.
Jokes aside, there have been many books (hurr) and movies emphasising the importance of reading freedom. The Cultural Revolution in China has shown that banning books is not going to help society in the long run. Sure, there mayn’t be any foreseeable severe drawbacks to forbidding prisoners from reading, but there aren’t any benefits either. And in the case of no win or loss on your side, I find it decent to then consider the viewpoint of the prisoner. I know just how destructive prolonged boredom can be to a person’s psyche.
It’s not as if letting them read would entice more people to commit crimes, so that they can be clapped in jail and have more time to read or something.
Though I really do need more time myself; I haven’t been catching up on my reading list very well…
Alternatively, maybe the idea is that removing every single benefit of prison would make it even less attractive to potential criminals. I don’t think that is the true intent, though, because jail itself should already be a deterrent, and yet most criminals continue to commit crime because they think they wouldn’t be caught, not because prison is a cosy place for a year-long vacation.
What is your stand on prisoners being permitted to receive books? Read the full article below.