Reader’s Entertainment reported back in March about the U.K. banning and restricting books to prison inmates. This has been contested internationally by many authors and petitions are circulating to government officials to have this ruling overturned.
Meanwhile in Italy, officials are reducing prisoners sentences by the amount of books read. Each inmates reading is tracked by prison guards and for each book read an inmates jail time is reduced by three days. There is a cap of forty-eight days per year on the reduction of sentence.
Mario Caligiuri, Calabria’s (Italy) culture representative is hoping this incentive will reduce the prison population. “Reading is an extraordinary antidote to unhappiness and promotes awareness and social and personal redemption,” he said in a statement.
Noteworthy during this controversy of allowing reading in prison is the recent auction of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Ernest, inscribed while he was in prison. Wilde was incarcerated in 1895 for “public indecency”, and writing that his lack of books: “is deprived of everything that could soothe, distract, or heal a wounded and shaken mind”, and “horrible as all the physical privations of modern prison life are, they are as nothing compared to the entire privation of literature to one to whom Literature was once the first thing of life, the mode by which perfection could be realised, by which, and by which alone, the intellect could feel itself alive”.
Major James Nelson who took charge of the prison during Wilde’s incarceration gave the author access to not only books, but writing materials. The copy of The Importance of Being Earnest being auctioned has a dedication from Wilde to Major Nelson: “To Major Nelson: from the author. A trivial recognition of a great and noble kindness. Feb, 99.”
The book will be auction in London on June 18 by Bonhams auction house.