Many people will remember a situation some years ago when there was a virtual ban on sending books into prisons. This was challenged and eventually overturned. Nevertheless, the situation is still far from ideal. Understaffing may mean that people do not get to the prison library often or for sufficient time and some prison libraries seem to be closed more often than they are open.
In our experience, we often find that where we have been sending books into a prison with no problems for a year or more, without warning our packages will be returned and we have to start all over again finding out why the books were refused.
Inside Time investigated the situation and did get the MoJ to issue a statement (again) saying that famiy and friends (and charities count as family and friends) can send or hand in new or second-hand books.
Another problem is that prisons tend to move the goalposts on a regular basis. Suddenly a package is refused because a rule has been brought in saying they need to have permission to receive books. this means they write to us, we find books and write back with a list, then they ask permission and send us another letter saying they have permission and then we send the books. Sometimes it is refused again because they got permission from 'the wrong person' or because some permissions code has expired..... It's totally nuts, a waste of time and money and has no positive purpose.
It is very clear that books provide a welcome (and legal) escape for people in prison. It gives them a chance to learn new things, find new interests, pass the time in a creative way and may go a long way to relieve mental health issues and reduce self-harm.
We also often supply books to prisons for wing libraries, education departments or for special family events. In this case the books remain free but we do pass on the shipping costs. Where a wing library is an initiative of a prison resident we don't charge for shipping.
We encourage prison staff to visit our Gateshead location to select what they need from our huge stock. Please send enquiries to us at firstname.lastname@example.org