There's always so much focus on how much prisons cost the tax payer, whether inmates should have access to TV and reading material and prison rehabilitation programs.
Chris Grayling doesn't know what's going on. Some might argue that this is true generally, but I'm talking about the "book ban". He didn't mean for it to happen, he didn't intend to deprive prisoners, and he doesn't have a good answer to the criticism that's being levelled at him. And the fuss is part of a wider and even more concerning issue.
The Howard League have been very active, not least through the #booksforprisoners twitter activity, which is being built on this week by English Pen, who are asking for people to tweet 'the book you would send to a prisoner, and why'.
New laws introduced this weekend will outlaw the frankly disgraceful behaviour we've seen from some of the dubious characters who have gathered in this industry. We're ending the situation where any old thug can turn up and work as a bailiff. From now on everyone working in the industry will have to be properly trained and certificated before they get started - and if they break our tough new rules they will have that certification taken away. All of this will clean up the industry and protect people from aggression and exploitation.
There can be no debate on the value of books in general and cutbacks in prisons across the UK have meant that library stock is much diminished and access time has significantly declined. Given that not all prisoners can earn money, and certainly not enough to buy books, the books and gifts sent from loved ones are a lifeline. To stop them is just cruel.
It is shaming to have so many people locked up in our prisons, not for what they have done but for what they might do in the future. This is not to mention the costs to the public purse of holding thousands of people in prison beyond their tariff expiry date.
Under pressure of budget cuts and economies of scale, prisons are getting fewer and larger, with a drive to close small community and open prisons, build larger jails and add additional capacity to existing establishments. Since 2010 there have been 13 prison closures and a further six still to come.
Chris Grayling's speech on Monday at Conservative Party conference reads as if the last 40 months didn't even happen. All his talk of tougher sentencing for knife crime and clamping down on use of cautions shamelessly ignores his out of touch Government's record since the last election and their disgraceful lack of support for innocent victims of crime.
Nobody enjoys being stopped from doing things they want to do. And government ministers - who like to think of themselves as being 'in charge' - take to it even less. So it was no surprise that at this year's Conservative party conference, Home Secretary Theresa May announced that she wants to repeal the Human Rights Act.
Handing over the keys to some of our most precious public services isn't something that should be done lightly, particularly when public trust is at stake. As a head of a country wide charity that deals with more than a million people each year, I'm acutely aware of the fragility of trust when delivering public services.
They say that crime doesn't pay. I don't know who "they" are in this context but "they" probably couldn't find their face with both hands. Talk to the experts, the people who really know about crime, the ones on the front line, and story is different. If you ask actual criminals, they will tell you that it pays rather handsomely, thank you very much.
The government is currently embarking on one of the largest change programme of the criminal justice system in recent history...The impact assessment of the Bill reveals that around 13,000 offenders will be recalled or committed to custody as a result of the proposals, giving a prison places increase of around 600 additional places per year.
Chris Grayling may have been forced into a humiliating climb-down on his plans to eliminate client choice from criminal legal aid, but don't jump for joy just yet. It's just one battle in a war on many fronts. Other aspects of his legal aid reforms are just as egregious and he shows no sign of backing down on them. Today, Grayling will be appearing before the Justice Select Committee for a grilling by a panel of MPs. Questions that MPs on the committee should ask him include...
I am writing to ask that you revisit your proposals for legal aid, proposals which have generated considerable criticism from across the board... Labour fully supports making those can afford to pay their legal fees do so, and clawing back costs from wealthy criminals. Legal aid should be reserved for those most in need.
We can't escape the fact that legal aid is taxpayers' money. It's not free and certainly is not a bottomless pot. We need to get the best value from every penny spent and we have made progress already in delivering a more efficient, targeted legal aid system.
From the reporting, you might have thought this was just a group of public-spirited barristers taking a break from their highly paid jobs to protect the justice system. Maybe they were. But I can't help noticing that legal aid pays the fees of lawyers. Thus, any cuts to the budget come directly from their capacious wallets.