Prison papers

Some Prison governors are resisting Home Office encouragement to
scrap supplying free newspapers to inmates, because they say they help
to develop reading skills, writes David Rose.

In a controversial
move, the Home Office has decided that since many prisoners now get
their news from in-cell TV sets, the policy of providing one free
newspaper for every 10 prisoners should be reviewed.

Governors
now have discretion to reduce or withdraw the supply of free
newspapers. But some governors have decided to maintain free newspaper
supplies because they say it helps improve low literary rates among
prisoners.

Confirming this, a Home Office spokesman said that one
of the factors governors are asked to take into account is that
“newspapers can assist prisoners in developing their reading skills”.

Another factor is that regional and local newspapers allow prisoners to make contact with events closer to their homes.

The
change of policy was denounced in the House of Lords by Liberal
Democrat peer Lord Dholakia as a “naive approach to a cost-cutting
exercise”.

Government spokesman Lord Bassam said the total annual
cost of providing one newspaper for every 10 prisoners was estimated to
be £1.2m. But he admitted: “While it must be honestly said that the
original proposition was dreamt up by a staff member who thought it
would contribute to savings, there is no suggestion that that will
necessarily be the case.”

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