Continuing Book Ban in Prisons has to end - IWOC
'When is a book ban NOT a book ban?' and the answer would be, 'Whenever the Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS) believes it is NOT!'
Prisoners incarcerated across the north of Ireland are continuing to face what is, an effective book ban, even though pandemic restrictions have now been lifted.
In the past week, open visits have once again returned indicating an end to further COVID 19 restrictions in line with Health and Safety guidelines. However, prisoners are still refused papers, magazines, books, pamphlets from family, friends and loved ones.
Since the onset of the pandemic last year, prisoners had been deliberately restricted from receiving reading materials from those on the outside. To date many excuses as to why the book ban was in place ranged from the possibility of the Covid-19 virus being spread through paper, to the possibility of preventing drugs being soaked in printed material from entering the prison system. To that end prisoners had been informed that they can only order directly from distributers chosen by the prison authorities themselves such as through the multinational company AMAZON. Ruling out any possibilities of purchasing directly from smaller independent distributers or directly from family and friends, siting to many that this was due to Covid concerns.
Examining the recent restrictions, a spokesperson for the Incarcerated Workers Organising Committee (IWOC) said that "Despite restrictions within the prison system being lifted around the pandemic. We have been made aware that restrictive measures in relation to printed materials and other forms of publications being sent to prisoners, a book ban still firmly in place sadly.
"We have had numerous attempted communications with those who administer the prison system however they have all refused to engage with the issue of a book ban. From the Justice Department, to the Northern Ireland Prison Service to Naomi Long at the Stormont. All have refused to offer any acknowledgement or a rationale as to why those incarcerated are still being refused important and valuable reading materials.
"Prisoners themselves have been repeatedly informed that all Covid restrictions have now been removed. However their families, friends or loved ones on the outside are clearly still unable to supply them directly with books or other reading materials by themselves.
"It is true that at anytime, anyone of us, any ordinary working class person can find ourselves imprisoned for little or nothing at all. That in itself is a completely traumatic and isolating experience. However to experience incarceration without any engagement with reading materials simply adds to that isolation.
"Within the Norths prison system, you also have a growing number of international prisoners serving different periods of time here. Non-native speaking prisoners without any form of close family contacts locally on the outside. All of whom remain even more isolated due to this language barrier, yet their friends or relations cannot send them any reading materials. This is clearly an abuse of power and no one is taking responsibility for what effectively amounts to another form torture.
"Anyone who considers themselves to be interested in social change or social justice within this society must voice their concerns. We demand answers as to why a prison system continues to implement what is a book ban by another name. This cannot be allowed to continue."