18th January 2012
Writing in the Guardian, Erwin James makes the case for arts and sports in prisons as a means to help, motivate and encourage offenders to believe that they can live a better way. Highlighting how more than half of all crime in England and Wales is committed by people with previous convictions, James says we shouldn't be surprised considering the realities - "aggravation and boredom" and little access to meaningful activities - of prison life.
He goes on to describe creative activity as "a powerful enabler of personal growth," which reducesthe likelihood of reoffending. He cites Rosie Meek, a lecturer in psychology at the University of Southampton, who argues that the wider community needs to recognise that what happens in prison is very relevant to what happens after people are released.
While the general public might perceive arts and sports as 'fun' activities, which reward instead of punishing prisoners, the core of 2nd Chance Project rugby and football "academies", run in Portland young offender institution, also involved meeting with victims of crime who would explain the impact that crime had on them and their families: "In the classroom, they had to face up to their actions and talk about what they had done. These are young men who have been put through the standard prison programme and it hasn't worked."
The evaluation report reveals a reconviction rate of 18%, compared with a prison average of 48% after one year for participants in the academies.
Read the Guardian article in full.