Banning Books from UK Prisoners is Obscene

The UK has followed Arizona's lead in banning books from being sent into prisons. In a move reminiscent of a Sheriff Joe Arpaio publicity stunt, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has introduced a rule preventing inmates from receiving parcels from outside unless they have “exceptional circumstances” such as a medical condition. Books and subscription magazines are prohibited.

Chris Grayling
During the almost 6 years I served in Arizona, books were the lifeblood of my rehabilitation. My family, friends and kind blog readers from around the world sent in hundreds of books via Amazon. I shared them with my friends in prison and donated them to the prison library, which was lacking in contemporary literature and stocked mostly mass-market fiction and a few dusty classics. By reading books from the psychology, self-help and philosophy genres, I was able to better understand myself and my past criminal behaviour. Books instilled me with a value system that was integral to my rehabilitation. Reading honed my writing skills, which led to a career as an author with Random House. Being an author gave me the credibility to talk in schools.

In recent years however, my attempts to get books into Arizona prisons have been increasingly obstructed. I've attempted to send books to T-Bone in Sheriff Joe Arpaio's jail via Amazon, and all of the books were returned to the sender. The state prison, the Arizona Department of Corrections, now requires anyone sending books via Amazon to be on the inmates approved visitor list, which excludes me from sending books to all of my friends in prison because ex-inmates aren't allowed to be on visitors' lists.

Society should be doing everything that it can to rehabilitate prisoners. Banning books is an obscene move in the opposite direction. Why is Chris Grayling adopting the failed policies of the USA which has the highest incarceration rate in the world? Why is Chris Grayling adopting the policies of Sheriff Joe Arpaio who boasts that the jail system he runs is a Nazi concentration camp? Arizona, which prides itself on its hard prisons, has some of the highest crime and re-offending rates in America according to FBI statistics. At the end of the day, the taxpayers will foot the bill for the mess Chris Grayling is creating.

If you believe that prisoners should have more access to books, please sign this petition.   

Click here for my original blog on receiving books in jail

Discussing books with Two Tonys an old-school Mafia associate serving 112 years.

More with Two Tonys

Click here for questions that I answered about my Banged Up Abroad episode for National Geographic

The books my Banged Up Abroad episode was based on - Party TimeHard Time and Prison Time - are all available on Amazon here.  

Click here to read about the prisoners at this blog who range from Mafia hit men to giant transsexuals.  

If you have any questions for me, please Tweet me here, or post them to my Facebook here or post them in the comments below.

Shaun Attwood


Ed Scarpo said...

Wow, first the Italians accuse the UK of being soft on mob guys (a riot in and of itself) and now they take the lead from Sheriff Joe... That saying apparently means nothing to some people "Where they burn books, they will soon burn people" or something like that. Good story, Shaun. How are you! Been a long time!!!

Anonymous said...

How can they possibly think this is a good idea?! Somewhere, William Shakespeare, J.R.R. Tolkien and Jane Austen are in the middle of a dead writers' facepalm.


Jon said...

Great Ed Thanks. Doing lots of talks to schools. How's your Mafia website doing?

Unknown said...

Shaun, I have no trouble sending books into Perryville to my daughter and her friends. I order from Amazon. It has to be a Amazon fullfillment. No 3rd party. And I send them a copy of the invoice. Without the invoice they will not get the books. For some reason Amazon is not putting the invoice in the package. There is no policy on record you have to be on their visitation list. So far it is just secure paks. So let me know which prison is not letting the prisoners have their books and I will look into it. Rachel-Pr.Sunshine Club

Jon said...

thanks Rachel, I'm having problems getting them into the MCSO jail and DOC

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