A prison library has been named the best in the country.

Staff at Lewes Prison have been told that they have won the first ever Prison Library of the Year Award.

They were praised for helping inmates to learn to read and for using books to steer offenders away from crime.

The prison will now receive books and audio books to help stock its shelves, while staff and orderlies alike will receive certificates.

The award is run by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals’ Prison Libararies Group.

A statement from the group’s judges said: “We felt that the team at HMP Lewes provide a broad range of library activity which contributes positively to the prison’s reducing re-offending strategy as well as providing prisoners with the opportunity to increase their literacy skills, discover the joy and importance of reading for pleasure and prepare for life outside of prison.

“Their participation in Storybook Dads and their Family Time initiative help prisoners to maintain links with their children whilst in prison. The library team has worked hard to provide a welcoming and inclusive library service which is an integral element of the prison regime at HMP Lewes.”

Simon Hughes, of East Sussex County Council, said: “Figures show that literacy is a significant issue in prisons with the majority of inmates having difficulty with basic literacy skills.

“Our team at HMP Lewes do an excellent job in difficult circumstances and help prisoners to enjoy literature and equip themselves for a more positive future. This award is richly deserved.”

Sue Wilkinson, of the Prison Libraries Group, said: “The judges felt that the entry from HMP Lewes showed an innovative and inclusive approach to service provision and a real commitment to embedding the library service in the daily life of the prison.”

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