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Prison book ban risks increase in reoffending, warn prison teachers

25 March 2014 | last updated: 10 December 2015

Banning books being sent to prisoners risks increasing reoffending rates, warned the union that represents prison educators today.

UCU said research shows that prisoners who do not take part in education are three times more likely to be reconvicted than those that do.  The union said that it would be unforgiveable if the government was to remove one of the key tools to stopping prisoners from reoffending.

A host of leading writers, including Philip Pullman and Linda Grant, have attacked the move by justice secretary Chris Grayling. The Howard League for Penal Reform has described the plan as 'nasty and bizarre.'

A study by UCU and the Institute of Education last month revealed worrying problems with prison education.The report said the power of prison educators to help offenders turn their lives around was being 'squandered' due to constant retendering for teaching contracts.

UCU said the last thing prisoners needed was the government making it harder to access books or education. The union said books should be seen as a key building block of education and cutting recidivism, not a privilege.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'Education is the greatest tool we have to stem the flow of people returning to prison. It would be unforgiveable if the government made accessing education harder through a ban on books. Books are a key building block of education and cutting reoffending rates, not just a privilege.

'The alternative to prisoners receiving books from family and friends is spending most of their weekly allowance on a book and, with the best will in the world, that isn't going to happen very often. Ministers need to urgently rethink this plan and work to cut reoffending rates, as we all pay if people go back and forth through a revolving door of incarceration.'