Monday, 31 March 2014

I found the apparent ban on books

being received by prisoners in Britain very strange and disturbing until someone informed me that the ban was not on books as such but on prisoners receiving parcels.
It made more sense after that - the ban on parcels has had the surely unintended consequence of apparently banning books as well. Would anyone seriously want to prevent prisoners from reading - as opposed to looking at indecent material? I doubt it. Will they ban the receipt of textbooks? Of course they won't. There will surely be an adjustment to the ban on parcels so that those who can and want to read will be able to do so.
A ban on books and reading would also mean a ban on libraries in prisons and a ban on studying. Such a ban would soon be the subject of a legal challenge - and it would be overturned.
Nevertheless the media has made much of it. I am sure the media here would do the same thing.
I don't know how much reading goes on inside prisons. Not a lot? All too often one of the reasons people are there is because they are academically less able. The average "IQ" is depressed and reading is not a popular occupation among those who have learning problems.  It is one of the issues that still isn't properly addressed.
Assessing a prisoner's ability to read, write and calculate and providing intensive remedial assistance might well help to reduce recidivism. It would be expensive and it certainly should not rely on the services of volunteers - as it appears to do here.
I finally managed to find an explanation of what the reasoning behind the ban was. The government is trying to make prison tougher, privileges - like parcels - will come through not merely behaving but fully cooperating with the rehabilitation process, and the reduction in the number of parcels that can be received will help to reduce the problem with contraband goodies. On the surface those goals don't seem to be objectionable.  The problem is that the means of introducing them has had unintended consequences.
I suspect that blanket bans on something like this never work anyway. They are not, as someone suggested me, the same as any other law or regulation. The ban is on an activity that is seen as having the potential for a positive outcome. People will find ways around that and it just makes the banned activity all the more desirable.

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