Detainees in police custody in Merseyside will be offered free books, thanks to a new scheme launched by the Police Commissioner to mark World Book Day.
Books in the Nick was dreamed up by special constable, Steve Whitmore, from the Metropolitan Police after he lent an 18-year-old detainee his own book in custody. When the officer told the teenager he could keep the book, he noticed how the detainee’s hostility and attitude completely changed. This sparked Steve to join with charity Give a Book and, as a result, free books are now available in all 43 of the Met’s custody suites.
Now the initiative is being brought to Merseyside thanks to the Police Commissioner, Jane Kennedy, who has also teamed up with the charity to ensure prisoners detained at all five of Merseyside Police’s custody suites will have access to free books.
In total, more than 50 books will be distributed between the custody suites, with versions available in Spanish, French, Polish and Arabic. The selection includes classics, short stories, Quick Reads, and young adult fiction.
The scheme will be launched tomorrow (Thursday, March 2nd) by the Deputy Police Commissioner, Cllr Sue Murphy and Rev. Peter Beaman, the Chair of Merseyside’s Independent Custody Visiting (ICV) scheme, who first proposed starting the scheme here. The PCC-led ICV scheme sees a team of 30 volunteers making unannounced visits at police cells to check on the welfare and wellbeing of detainees. They make recommendations as to how conditions could be improved.
Deputy Police Commissioner Cllr Sue Murphy said: “I’m delighted to be joining with the Chair of our ICV scheme and Give a Book to launch Books in the Nick in Merseyside to mark World Book Day.
“Being on your own in a cell for up to 24 hours, particularly in what may be upsetting circumstances, can be very distressing and isolating. By providing detainees with access to a free book we could potentially alter a person’s experience of custody.
“Books not only pass the time, they have the power to calm people down and even make them think in a different way. It’s clear from Special Constable Whitmore’s experience that the act of giving a book can make a difference and change a detainee’s attitude.”
Chair of the ICV scheme, Rev Beaman, said: “Being able to offer reading material to those detained in custody means that they are usefully occupied during the process, while also giving encouragement to those who rarely read to develop an interest in books and magazines.”
Following the launch, the Commissioner’s office will monitor how many of the books are taken and will liaise with Give a Book to provide more books when required.
Give a Book was set up in 2011 in memory of writer and playwright Simon Gray who loved to read and to share his reading. The charity uses donations to source new books at cost price and distributes them to someone who might need one.
Victoria Gray from Give a Book said: “We are delighted that Merseyside Police are launching this scheme which has proved such a success in the Met Area. We look forward to working with them in the future.”
World Book Day is now in its 20th year and is marked in more than 100 countries around the world. The event has been designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of authors, illustrators, books and reading, and gives book lovers, and children, the chance to celebrate their favourite stories.
Find out more about Give a Book at www.giveabook.org.uk
Top image: Deputy PCC Cllr Sue Murphy with ICV coordinator Amie Parsonage
Bottom image: PCC Jane Kennedy with ICV chair Rev. Peter Beaman