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Tolokonnikova Joins Drive to Abolish British Prison Book Ban

Published: April 24, 2014 (Issue # 1807)



  • Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, center, has written in support of abolishing a ban on books for British inmates.
    Photo: S. Porter / Vedomosti

Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has given her backing to a campaign to persuade the British government to overturn a ban on books being sent to prison inmates.

Tolokonnikova, who was incarcerated for nearly two years after performing an anti-Putin song in Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral in 2012, was one of 10 writers and activists to call for improved access to books in prisons, The Guardian reported Wednesday.

"Because you have books, you know that every day you spend behind bars is not a day spent in vain," wrote Tolokonnikova, who has become a vocal campaigner for prisoners rights since her release from jail in December under a presidential amnesty.

According to regulations introduced by Westminster last November, British inmates are banned from receiving parcels sent from outside prison — apart from under "exceptional circumstances" — with books, magazines and clothes all prohibited under the new rules.

British Justice Minister Chris Grayling recently defended the ban in an open letter to poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, a critic of the ban, saying it was necessary to prevent contraband from being smuggled into prisons.

"When you are free you don't have such a painful desire to read as you have in prison," wrote Belarussian journalist Iryna Khalip, who was detained for criticizing her country's regime. "You can get any book at home, in the shops or from the Internet. In prison books become the air. Your body needs air to breathe. No books — you cannot breathe. And if you cannot breathe there is no life."

Nigerian journalist Kunle Ajibade, who spent 3 ½ years in prison, also criticized the ban, writing: "I bear witness to the therapy that books give in moments of gloom. Why would anyone who truly cares for humanity want to deny a prisoner a mind builder?"

The 10 writers' accounts have been published to coincide with World Book Night, a charitable event held annually on Apr. 23 to encourage open access to literature.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Monday, Jan. 26


Feeling stressed by the crisis? The Northwest Coach University at 3 Ulitsa Vostsstanaya is hosting a master class by lifecoach Tatiana Almazova. She will shed light on the coaching process, the usefulness of coaching during times of economic downturn and how coaching can improve your career and business prospects. The event starts at 7 p.m. and admission is free. Pre-register by calling 424 3700.



Discover the State Hermitage Museum's collection of English painting at a lecture by art historian Yelizaveta Renne at the Prince Galitzine Library, 46 Nab. Reki Fontanki. The event starts at 6 p.m. and the lecture will be followed by a concert of arias, songs and duets by English composer Henry Purcell. The event is free of charge.



Tuesday, Jan. 27


Celebrate the 71st anniversary of the end of the Siege of Leningrad on Palace Square with a free concert at 7 p.m. Listen to WWII-era songs and the poetry of Olga Bergholz while you peruse outdoor exhibitions dedicated to life during wartime. The event is capped off by a fireworks display at 9 p.m.



Stop by the Lexica School of Foreign Languages at 73 Ligovsky Prospekt from now until Friday for a free English lesson. The classes start at 7 p.m. and cover all levels, from Beginner to Advanced. Registration by telephone on 7641692 and a desire to improve your skills are the only prerequisites.







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