Books in the Nick

808. Steve Whitmore (London)

Steve Whitmore, from London, founded ‘Books in the Nick’, a project supplying over 5,000 books, and other reading materials, to detainees in police custody.

Encompassing the Metropolitan Police’s 43 active custody sites and eight national police forces, the materials provided reflect the varied needs of detainees over their potential 24-hour stay and include large print books for the visually impaired and books for all reading abilities.

Steve, who volunteers as a Special Constable, inserts a flyer into every single book, which includes details of local educational courses and library schemes. According to feedback from officers, providing a book decreases the anxiety levels of detainees, promotes cooperation with officers and enables their stay in police custody to be a more productive experience.    

In a personal letter to Steve, Prime Minister Theresa May said:

“Through ‘Books in the Nick’ you are providing thousands of books and other reading material to detainees in police custody. Your work promoting local educational courses and libraries and also the project’s positive impact on detainees in police custody suites, shows tremendous innovation and commitment.”

Victoria Gray, Executive Director of ‘Give a Book’ said:

From our work in other difficult situations including prisons we know well how incredibly valuable books can be to prisoners, particularly those who feel isolated, agitated, lonely and bored. So far, together with Steve, we have sent over 5,000 books across all Met custody suites. The impact this could have in the community, especially on young adults, is massive — we include flyers in the books with information about the various free reading and learning resources available.

At ‘Give a Book’ we see again and again how reading can open a door and help turn people’s lives around. It’s been great to work with Steve on this fantastic project.  He is a true advocate for change and his dedicated hard work will help make it a success.”

Steve said:  

“Receiving this Points of Light award is a fantastic honour and one that wouldn’t be possible without the incredible support and guidance from ‘Give a Book.’ They have shared the ‘Books in the Nick’ journey, from the simple act of giving a detainee a book to keep to providing over 5,000 free books to all of the Met’s custody suites.

“‘Books in the Nick’ has made possible an untapped opportunity to reach out to people when they are at their most vulnerable and in need of support; and at the same time fosters an improved relationship between police and detainees. Uniquely detainees can take the books away with them and for some, this is the first book they have ever owned. To have ‘Books in the Nick’ recognised by the Prime Minister in such a way means so much and I’m truly grateful.”

The daily Points of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers - people who are making a change in their community.

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