1. The library catalogue at the UK’s first private prison lacks 90% of the books on the GCSE English reading list.
Only two of the 20 books listed as set texts for GCSE English literature are listed in the HMP Birmingham library catalogue, despite assurances from ministers that libraries would meet prisoners’ needs.
Justice secretary Chris Grayling banned prisoners from being sent books earlier this year, arguing this would not affect inmates’ access to books because all prisons have libraries.
But the limited selection at HMP Birmingham means the library catalogue does not have the required books for prisoners to study for an English GCSE.
Prisoners appear to lack access to seminal books on the AQA GCSE syllabus, including To Kill a Mockingbird, Animal Farm, and Wuthering Heights, which are included on the list of set texts.
The prison library catalogue also contains no Shakespeare plays, which are compulsory for GCSE English students.
The library however has a large number of “true crime” books detailing the exploits of notorious criminals.
2. Books that are available at HMP Birmingham.
Over half of prisoners have no GCSEs or any other qualifications when they are first imprisoned, and many try to learn while incarcerated.
BuzzFeed obtained the prison’s library catalogue after a freedom of information request to Birmingham City Council, the local library authority.
HMP Birmingham was the first jail in the UK to be run by a private company, and is operated by the contractor G4S. It holds roughly 1,500 prisoners.
Chris Grayling has previously rubbished claims that stopping prisoners receiving books would affect access to books.
“Let’s be clear about one thing: prisoners’ access to reading material is not being curtailed,” he wrote in a response published in March.