Charity says: “Prison books ban is nuts”

24 Mar 2014

In response to new prison rules restricting access to books the charity PET has received a number of complaints from prisoners who are frustrated and unable to study.

The rules introduced in November ban prisoners from receiving certain items in the post and limit them to having only 12 books in their cells. 

Stack of books at HMP Pentonville

Rod Clark, PET Chief Executive, said:

“According to the new rules prisoners are banned from having more than 12 books and not allowed to be sent in or buy books from the outside, but they are allowed buy lads’ magazines such as ‘Nuts’ and ‘Zoo’ in this way. This is frankly nuts.

“We know this is badly affecting prisoners, we’ve had letters from our learners and one prisoner I met couldn’t get his academic textbooks he had ordered from an approved, secure supplier.

“Clearly students need books to help them study and all prisoners should be supported to read. We know that education helps to reduce reoffending*, so this ban is also completely counter-productive in supporting their rehabilitation. Many of our alumni have changed their lives through learning and they may not have been able to do so without books and other study resources.

“When staff shortages are making access to libraries increasingly difficult this ban could not have come at a worse time. We would like this rule to be reviewed and in the meantime we want to see more prison Governors using their discretion to allow prisoners access to books for studying rather than a blanket ban for all prisoners.”

Editor’s Notes

For interview requests, case studies, photos or further information please contact Susannah Henty, Media Manager,; 020 8648 7760

PET has signed up to a new petition against these restrictions. This rule refers to (PSI 23/2013 Para 7.1) under the Incentives and Earned Privileges Scheme.

*A recent report was carried out by the MoJ Justice Data Lab, published in January 2014 which shows people supported by PET to study distance learning courses in prison are a quarter less likely to reoffend than other ex-prisoners.

About PET

This year Prisoners' Education Trust (PET) celebrates its 25th anniversary. The charity was set up in HMP Wandsworth by a prison teacher and a barrister in 1989 who wanted to offer a wider range of courses to prisoners. That year, PET helped 12 people, now the charity supports approx. 2,000 each year to study distance learning courses across England and Wales. The charity does this by providing advice and funding for prisoners keen to study subjects and levels not generally available in prisons. PET also carries out research, informed by prisoner learners, to improve prison education.

In 2012 PET launched the Prisoner Learning Alliance to work together with 18 other expert organisations to champion learning for people in prison.