Prison bosses blast book call

Category D Kirkham Prison
Category D Kirkham Prison

Prison bosses at HMP Kirkham have criticised a High Court decision to reverse restrictions on jail inmates receiving books from friends and family.

A judge declared the restrictions introduced by a new prison rule in November 2013 “unlawful”.

Mr Justice Collins’s decision was a victory for Barbara Gordon-Jones, 56, a convicted arsonist with a borderline personality disorder who has a degree and a doctorate in English literature.

In his ruling, the judge said that it was strange to treat books as a privilege when they could be essential to a prisoner’s rehabilitation.

However, a spokesman for category D Kirkham Prison said: “There never was a specific ban on books and the restrictions on parcels have been in existence across most of the prison estate for many years and for very good reason.

“Prisoners have access to the same public library service as the rest of us, and can buy books through the prison shop.

“We are considering how best to fulfil the ruling of the court.

“However, we are clear that we will not do anything that would create a new conduit for smuggling drugs and extremist materials into our prisons.”

The ban was imposed a year ago as part of a crackdown by Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling on what ministers described as prisoners’ “perks and privileges”.

However, the reverse of the decision has been welcomed by prisoner welfare campaigners who say prison libraries are often not well-stocked and inmates cannot afford to buy their own approved books.

Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said: “The ban on sending books to prisoners was always an absurd policy.

“It had nothing to do with punishing and reforming prisoners.

“This is a victory for all those who campaigned against the ban and the Government should abandon the ludicrous policy with immediate effect.”

The news comes after it was revealed last month that staff at HMP Kirkham seized more illegal phones last year than any other prison in the country.

The number of devices found, 488, was by far the highest recorded – almost 200 more than any other prison.

The category D open prison, which has space for up to 657 prisoners, currently houses 562 inmates.