Incentives Policy Framework - Annex F: Sending and handing in of books to prisoners

Updated 1 September 2022

This page contains Annex F of the main Incentives policy framework.

1. Ordering books via approved retailers

Since 31 January 2015, friends and families of prisoners have been allowed to order books from approved retailers, which source andsend the books on to prisoners. The current approved retailers are:

  • Blackwell’s
  • Foyles
  • Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights (added 1 September 2015)
  • Waterstones
  • WH Smith
  • Wordery (added 1 September 2015)

Three additional approved retailers have been added from 4 November 2019:

  • Housmans
  • Incentive Plus
  • Prisons Org UK

Should a prisoner decide not to accept a book that has been sent in via an approved retailer (or is not permitted to have it in possession) and wishes to return it so that the sender can be refunded, the package should be returned to the person who ordered it. This will be at the prisoner’s expense. If the prisoner does not wish to pay for the book to be returned, they should be asked whetherthey want the book to be sent out (at their own expense) or kept in their stored property. If the book is suitable, prisoners should have the option to offer the book to the prison library as a donation. PSI 12/2011, Prisoners’ Property, (and, in particular, paragraph 2.41) sets out further information on how to handle property and the options available to Governors when excess property is received.

1.1 Sending and handing in of books directly by families and friends

From 1 September 2015, families and friends will also be allowed to send or hand in books to prisoners irrespective of whether or not there are exceptional circumstances. Visitors will not be allowed to hand books directly to prisoners; they will need to be left with staff to process.

1.2 Amount of books permitted in-cell

From 1 September 2015, there will no longer be a numerical limit on the number of books which prisoners can have in their cells. The number of books permitted will be subject only to the overarching volumetric control limits onproperty.

1.3 Further important points

  • All books received must be searched before being passed to prisoners.
  • Prisoners will continue to be allowed to order books through existing arrangements in place in prisons.
  • The sending or handing in of audio books,whether via an approved retailer or (from 1 September 2015) directly from families and friends, is permitted in cassette or CD format.
  • Audio books will form part of the overall general limits on the number of books that can be held in-cell. For the purposes of the standardised facilities list, such items are categorised as books, rather than CDs or cassettes.
  • Restrictions on the books which prisoners are allowed to have access to remains unchanged. The Public Protection Manual sets out the books that no prisoner can have access to and Governors can extend this list if the nature of the particular prison’s population requires it. In addition, Governors can decide whether an individual prisoner should have a particular book, taking into account the prisoner’s offending behaviour.

These arrangements apply to books only.The sending and handing in of other items, including items which might be available from the approved retailers, remain subject to the restrictions set out at paragraphs 5.52 to 5.55 inclusive of the [Incentives Policy Framework].