Books for First Nighters provides books for those spending their first night in custody, with the aim of offering some comfort and mental release to the new arrivals. As well as helping ease the difficult and traumatic transition into prison life, it aims to help facilitate the relationship between staff and inmates.
Following the successful piloting of the scheme at three prisons in 2017, over the past two years we have received enquiries from a number of prisons interested in replicating it. We have been able to expand the project to 16 prisons so far, expanding according to lessons learnt, individual prison requirements, and funding. So far in 2019 we have sent out over 2200 books to prison induction wings.
We are now running this project in 25 prisons, albeit some of them have been a bit slow in 2020 due to restrictions. The project has been much needed during lockdown as new inmates must quarantine for two weeks on arrival, and are therefore on the induction wing for longer than usual before going to their designated wing. Below are some of the positive responses we have received for Books for First Nighters since the first lockdown in March 2020.
“I am grateful for the books you previously sent-with the increased time prisoners are spending locked up in their cells due to COVID restrictions this is a real boost in helping to maintain positive mental health.” HMP Risley
“I had a lovely story of a man who picked up a book, spoke to his daughter about it, and then that book got him into reading again. The reading material became a way of them bonding after a difficult relationship.” HMP Brixton
“The selection of books suited readers of all ages and abilities and helps provide a bit of escapism from the situation they find themselves in.” – HMP Wandsworth
“This has … proven to be an excellent example of restorative practice where not only is there the generous and humane act of giving a book to an individual, but they are being given ownership and responsibility. In fact the inmates have appreciated this service so much that the majority of books are being voluntarily returned to the committal landing staff in perfect condition so that others can also benefit from this scheme on offer.” – Unit Manager, Northern Ireland
“…spoke to one of the officers on the Induction Wing and she said that the first night books are very well used and appreciated. She said that it is good for the officers to have a ready supply of books and not have to chase round the prison for some”
– HMP Stoke Heath
‘Amazing. This has helped to keep my mind off jail on my first night in here’ – Prisoner, Northern Ireland
“I think it’s really helped lots of people. Particularly those who are readers. They might not have had chance to get to the library and been given a book, being able to choose makes them feel better. It’s made some people really happy.”
–Prisoner, HMP Erlestoke
– Letter from prisoner, HMP Pentonville