Prisons and libraries - you may wonder what these two have in common, other than that you could say that one incarcerates people in cells and the other confines books to shelves. Well there is that - but there are other links too, such as the ban on books within prisons.
The reason I am blogging about this is two-fold:- firstly I am an author and therefore it is relevant to my trade and secondly, I have recently been asked to contribute to the people who seek to override this ruling.
If you have been reading this blog for some time you will be aware that I don't often sit on the fence. So here are my thoughts on the subject.
I believe that prison should be a deterrent against crime, that fear of going to prison should be so ingrained in society that most people will think twice before perpetrating a crime. However recently we have all come to view prisons as at times providing a better standard of living than the sometimes hard-up working people can do for themselves. Who hasn't heard of the recreation rooms and gyms and so forth that some prisons have within their walls? Is this fair or right? I think not!
Not that I am advocating a return to dark and dingy cells with slop on a plate but there does have to be some sense of punishment. Because when the idea of prison as a deterrent fails [as it always will with some individuals] then the reality of the prison environment has to deliver on its promise. A life sentence should mean exactly that and in my opinion all paedophiles, rapists and the like should automatically receive this.
But even the 'lesser' criminals should get it a little tougher inside. It's all very well to say that a burglar hasn't killed anyone but the devastation they leave in their wake can often shatter lives and especially in the case of vulnerable victims, destroy their confidence for the rest of their lives.
So no there should not be luxuries on hand for these men and women...what there should be is proper facilities to allow them to rehabilitate. And by that I mean WORK. Teach them a trade, a skill which they can start a new life with when they come out. Something like gardening or bricklaying that is practical.
But banning books? Well that's a tricky one. The best books can be illuminating, they can set the imagination on fire and they can bring their characters to life. They can engender in their readers feelings of empathy and a deeper understanding of their own and others' humanity. Good books can make you question things, make you strive to understand something and even stir a desire to be a better person...
But not all books are like that. Some are salacious, sleezy and/or show women and children to be merely objects of desire that are both disposable and worthless. These books degrade us both as a society and individually.
Other books whilst not quite so bad are filled with gratuitous violence, sex or bad language. These whilst perfectly fine [if you REALLY have to] for the general public are not suitable for those in prison.
Believe me I am not a modern-day Mary Whitehouse but please lets have a bit of common sense here! Give the prisoners the uplifting, moral and thought-provoking books by all means. They can do no harm and may even do some good. But keep the other books away.
So now you are wondering what I am going to do about my own books and the request for them aren't you? Hmmm that's a good question. Why don't you read my books and get back to me with your opinion? :)