Prisoners Escape With Help Of Southfields Residents

Into a good book thanks to donations of 100's of paperbacks and magazines

SWAG of books en route to HMP Wandsworth

Kind-hearted residents in Southfields have come to the rescue of HMP Wandsworth, after an urgent plea for books resulted in hundreds of paperbacks and magazines being donated to the prison to help boredom among prisoners. The books include thrillers, best sellers and even the odd crime novel.

The Southfields Grid Alliance, a joint venture of local groups who are helping elderly and vulnerable residents during the current lockdown via a phone helpline, was contacted last Friday (May 1st) by Wandsworth’s Quaker Chaplain Liz Bridge.

The regular library at the jail had been shut when lockdown started, and she was desperate to provide reading material to new prisoners isolated for 23 hours a day during their first two weeks. The Grid Alliance soon put the word out to their 50-strong volunteers, and in only 4 days over 600 books and magazines had soon flooded in.

Collecting and collating these donations was volunteer Andrew Dunley. “Having just gone out of the house to pick a few books up from other Grid homes, I found on returning I could hardly get near the front door for the number of bags that were piling up” laughed the Elsenham Street resident. “We were donated foreign language books too, which the prison also needs, even a few in Hungarian!” Another delivery will be made over the Bank Holiday weekend by Dunley, and the Grid Alliance say donations are still very welcome via their helpline 07734 818540.

HMP Wandsworth

Once they arrive at the jail, Chaplain Liz sorts them out into various categories like “best sellers” to ensure new prisoners are given a decent read and a magazine to take with them on their fortnight’s isolation. “A page-turning thriller and a nice magazine are a great comfort to take into lockdown, which for a first-time prisoner can be a lonely and frightening experience. They give great pleasure, easing the loneliness”. The rest of the books are then placed on tables spread around the various wings of the jail. The chaplain has been thrilled by Southfields residents’ generosity. “Both staff and prisoners alike have told me it really makes a difference to their lives. Thanks so much to everyone who has donated”. As well as magazines, the prison is keen to get general interest magazines for men, jigsaws and any European or Asian languages books from Europe or Asia.

The Southfields Grid Alliance has been operating on every day of the lockdown. They have been busy delivering prescriptions, doing shopping for dozens of residents unable to do these tasks, as well as dog walking, helping people work out bills and providing “phone friends” to lonely people.

Their helpline for any prison book or magazine donations will be open throughout the Bank Holiday weekend on 07734 818540 or email

May 8, 2020