On 21st November the Longford Trust Lecture brought together organisations and individuals working within prisons and the criminal justice sector. The annual lecture provides a platform to reflect on prison policy and the need for broader social reform. The evening is chaired by Jon Snow, and the lecture this year was delivered by Ian Blair, on the subject of “Where Next for Policing and Criminal Justice?”
The Longford Trust awards prizes during the evening to celebrate the achievements of individuals, groups and organisations working in the field of prison reform.
Presenting the prize to PRG’s founder and director Sarah Turvey, the judges gave this citation:
“As it marks its 20th anniversary, the judges want to celebrate the understated but enormously important work of Prison Reading Groups in consistently promoting and supporting reading in prisons over two decades, whatever the political climate, and thus boosting informal learning, creating connectedness with outside culture, harnessing reading to bring families together, and building community inside the 40 jails where it operates. It is a simple idea, done well, that has had too little recognition of its substantial achievements.”
The evening was broadcast live into prisons over National Prison Radio. In Sarah Turvey’s acceptance of the award, she celebrated the work of the librarians and volunteers who run the groups, and of course the members who make them possible:
“Our work relies on the commitment and energy of the prison librarians and outside volunteers who run the groups. Nick Hardwick, former Chief Inspector of Prisons, has described prison libraries as ‘oases of calm’ and as almost every first-time visitor comments, ‘the library is the one place that doesn’t look or feel like prison’. It’s the library staff who create this atmosphere, who run so many of the projects that bring confidence and ambition to prisoners, and who help make prisons more socialised and civilised places.
Our volunteers are extraordinary. They bring in the outside world and an infectious delight in books, reading – and other people. They are inventive and undaunted by lost gate passes, lockdowns or room clashes – and many have been working with us for five years or more.
Above all, of course, this award belongs to our members. Everyone here this evening and everyone listening through National Prison Radio knows how daunting prison can be. Joining a reading group can feel very risky, especially for an inexperienced reader who may never have read a book. But it can also be a first step towards lasting change.”
We are very grateful to the Longford Trust for their recognition of Prison Reading Groups. If you would like to read or watch the lecture, you can do so here.