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Tolokonnikova Joins Drive to Abolish British Prison Book Ban

Published: April 24, 2014 (Issue # 1807)



  • Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, center, has written in support of abolishing a ban on books for British inmates.
    Photo: S. Porter / Vedomosti

Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has given her backing to a campaign to persuade the British government to overturn a ban on books being sent to prison inmates.

Tolokonnikova, who was incarcerated for nearly two years after performing an anti-Putin song in Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral in 2012, was one of 10 writers and activists to call for improved access to books in prisons, The Guardian reported Wednesday.

"Because you have books, you know that every day you spend behind bars is not a day spent in vain," wrote Tolokonnikova, who has become a vocal campaigner for prisoners rights since her release from jail in December under a presidential amnesty.

According to regulations introduced by Westminster last November, British inmates are banned from receiving parcels sent from outside prison — apart from under "exceptional circumstances" — with books, magazines and clothes all prohibited under the new rules.

British Justice Minister Chris Grayling recently defended the ban in an open letter to poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, a critic of the ban, saying it was necessary to prevent contraband from being smuggled into prisons.

"When you are free you don't have such a painful desire to read as you have in prison," wrote Belarussian journalist Iryna Khalip, who was detained for criticizing her country's regime. "You can get any book at home, in the shops or from the Internet. In prison books become the air. Your body needs air to breathe. No books — you cannot breathe. And if you cannot breathe there is no life."

Nigerian journalist Kunle Ajibade, who spent 3 ½ years in prison, also criticized the ban, writing: "I bear witness to the therapy that books give in moments of gloom. Why would anyone who truly cares for humanity want to deny a prisoner a mind builder?"

The 10 writers' accounts have been published to coincide with World Book Night, a charitable event held annually on Apr. 23 to encourage open access to literature.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Monday, Oct. 20


Amateur pictures from World War I are on display for only one more day at Rosphoto’s exhibition “On Both Sides,” chronicling the conflict through the eyes of observers on both sides of the trenches. The price of entrance to the exhibition is 100 rubles ($2.50).



Tuesday, Oct. 21


The Environment, Health and Safety Committee of AmCham convenes this morning at 9 a.m. in the organization’s office.


Take the chance to pick the brains of Dmitry V. Krivenok, the deputy director of the Economic Development Agency of the Leningrad region, and Mikhail D. Sergeev, the head of the Investment Projects Department, during the meeting with them this morning hosted by SPIBA. RSVP for the event by emailing office@spiba.ru before Oct. 17 if you wish to attend.


Improve your English at Interactive English, the British Book Center’s series of lessons on vocabulary and grammar in an informal atmosphere. Starting at 6 p.m., each month draws attention to different topics in English, with the topic for this month’s lessons being “visual arts.”



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