Books in the Nick

Books in the Nick supplies police station custody suites with books for detainees to read whilst they are being held and keep when they leave.

Books in the Nick was started by Give a Book in collaboration with Special Constable Steve Whitmore of the Metropolitan Police. Working in partnership with Steve Whitmore, we facilitate the provision of books to individual custody suites. The project began when, after giving his own book to a young man brought into Brixton Custody Suite, SC Whitmore saw the positive and productive reaction this simple action received.

“I met this man, gave him a copy of Catcher in the Rye which I was reading because he seemed so distressed. Later when we was leaving he asked me if he could keep it and I said sure.”

Custody suites are the first place someone is taken for processing when they are arrested. They can be held there for as little as two hours, but sometimes it can be a whole weekend – if they come in on a Friday night for example. The books are specifically selected to be appropriate and reflective of the needs of the detainees in custody suites. A mixture of short stories, Quick reads, poetry, classic stories, non-fiction and pictorial books for young and emergent readers are provided.

Since the project began in 2016, Books in the Nick has expanded to supply police station custody suites across the UK. In October 2017, Steve Whitmore was recognized with a Points of Light Award from the Prime Ministers office, for volunteering work including his work with Books in the Nick. Steve was also given the Social Impact Award by the Festival of Learning in June 2018.

Books in the Nick

Watch the video on Books in the Nick


“Books in a custody suite are very helpful. Detainees are in the cells for sometimes days on end with very little to do. Books help to break that.”

“It certainly keeps detainees occupied which puts less pressure on the DDOs”

The project has been covered widely in the press, including this article in the Guardian, and coverage in the Evening Standard.

Queens Award logo


In June 2019, Books in the Nick volunteers were recognised with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. Since then, we have continued to support custody suites around the UK, and plan to restock a number of Metropolitan area custody suites in 2021.










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