16th May 2011
This new report from the Prison Reform Trust interviewed prisoners across England and Wales who engage in some kind of volunteer work. Time Well Spent states how active citizenship may promote desistance from crime.
Data for the study was collated by survey responses from 82 prisons and interviews with prisoners and staff in 12 prisons. While it found that most prisons offer some of opportunity to engage in active citizenship, the majority of prisoners' skills are wasted as there are not enough numbers to take up roles in certain areas.
The opportunity to volunteer can encourage prisoners to adopt responsibility and contribute to the wider prison community by helping others who are less able than themselves.
'Prisoners are active citizens when they exercise responsibility by making positive contributions to prison life or the wider community'.
The report highlights five types of active citizenship; peer support schemes, community support schemes, restorative justice programmes, democratic participation in prison life, and involvement in arts and media. These categories of activity, the report states, can have a positive effect on the person's sense of self, it can lead to greater trust from others, prisoners can acquire new skills, and can give their time inside a sense of purpose.
While the report emphasized that its purpose was not aimed to draw connections between active citizenship and desistance, it does state that time spent engaging with meaningful volunteering may give prisoners confidence and skills on release which will enable them to live a crime free life in the future.