In 2014 we were asked by HMP Wormwood Scrubs to help set up their first Book Room. This Book Room would be open on a wing and would complement the existing library, to encourage recreational reading for prisoners in an informal setting.
We soon found overwhelmingly warm support for the project. There are now Book Rooms open on all 5 Wings in the prison—these have been generously furnished by local business Boden, and populated with book donations from publishers, authors, booksellers, other charities and embassies.
None of this could happen at all without our own GAB supporters, nor without the dedication, encouragement, enthusiasm and sheer hard work of those on the inside, staff and volunteers alike.
“Without people like you who care what happens in our prisons people like me wouldn’t stand a chance. [The] book rooms idea is fantastic, really I can just imagine the impact they’ll have.” – Erwin James
There was an official opening in the presence of the Governor, the local MP and assorted supporters. Rachel Billington declared the Book Rooms open and wrote about the event in the July 2015 issue of Inside Time.
“Libraries are all important in prisons. Apart from books, all kinds of events and projects start in libraries or are held there. However, as we all know, staff cuts have made it harder to get into libraries. Wormwood Scrubs has come up with an excellent answer to the problem: a Book Room on each wing….Unlike in a library, the books are put on shelves uncategorised, as they might be in a home. Also, men can take them out any time without signing anything or, if they prefer, settle down and read at a table….Now, with any luck, prisoners at The Scrubs will have the best of both worlds: the library for books that need to be ordered, reference books or where help is needed from a librarian, plus a room where you can go and grab a book any day or the week and enjoy a break from prison pressures.” – Rachel Billington
“I went onto B Wing yesterday afternoon and into the Book Room where I found two prisoners staring at all the books slack-jawed with amazement. When one of them got himself back together he said “Guv, this is a most welcome development”. [Honestly !!] I explained the situation and the generosity of donors and the other said “So we can just take these back to our cell and read them ?” I replied “yes” – cue more amazement. However the icing on the cake was when one said “So are there any history books ?” and I was able to say “yes, here’s “The Gunpowder Plot” by Antonia Fraser and look it’s got a personal dedication from the author to the B Wing Book Room at Wormwood Scrubs.” !!