Jewish figures condemn government's prison books plan

By Daniel Easterman, April 10, 2014

A group of leading Jewish figures has condemned government regulations preventing prison inmates receiving books through the post.

In a letter to The Times signed by 18 rabbis, journalists and activists, the group wrote: “Jewish culture is united by a deep-rooted conviction in the power of the written word. We are therefore sensitive to any attempt to restrict access to books.”

Keith Kahn-Harris, the editor of the Jewish Quarterly, who was the lead signatory, told the JC that he was “horrified about the new rules.

“Books and magazines are not a privilege. I think they are essential for rehabilitation and an enlightened prison policy. This is cruelty for the sake of cruelty.”

The signatories included JC editor Stephen Pollard, Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner and Anthony Julius, the former chairman of the JC.

The government introduced the rules restricting items prisoners could receive in November.

Writing on the Conservative Home website last month, Secretary of State for Justice Chris Grayling defended the policy, saying: “All prisoners can access well-stocked prison libraries.”

But Mr Kahn-Harris said: “Library provision in prisons is highly erratic.”

Last updated: 5:09pm, April 10 2014