Enrichment activities? Arts, creativity and spirituality in criminal justice systems

Lead Research Organisation: Birmingham City University
Department Name: ELSS Sch of Social Sciences


This innovative series of seminars seeks to explore the role of the arts, creativity, and spirituality, within the criminal justice system. There is work to suggest that such interventions have a positive impact on broken communities and people's general health and well-being, but there is little academic literature to support the idea that taking part in something creative while in prison will reduce an offender's likelihood of breaking the law in the future. This seminar series will help to change that.

Running across four cities, the series will involve speakers and participants from a range of academic disciplines, practitioners from the criminal justice system and third sector organisations, ex-prisoners, and the wider public.

Seminar participants will consider what works well when artists, writers, and actors deliver creative activities in prisons and probation settings. It will help social scientists, psychologists, medics, lawyers and fine artists compare their different understanding of how people experience taking part in creative activities. Prison governors and staff will be able to talk about the impact that holding plays or exhibitions has on prisoners. The seminar series will then draw all of these elements together in helping all participants to improve future research and evaluation.

Planned Impact

The proposed seminar series will have an impact on enrichment activity service provision in criminal justice systems, will shape UK and international policies about arts provision for prisoners and offenders, and will enhance the support and practice of arts providers. By ensuring a wide pool of attendees from academia and the private, third and public sectors, as well as former and serving prisoners, and a high standard of speakers from the UK and abroad, the seminar series has the capacity to make a significant cross-sector professional impact. This will, in turn, impact on the wider beneficiaries of enrichment activities, offenders and the public, across the world.

As well as the academic researchers outlined in the academic beneficiaries, the professional groups who will benefit from the seminar series will include
Arts organisations and individual practitioners. This group will include, amongst others mixed media and urban artists, embroiderers and textile artists, musicians, actors, creative writers. Ride Out, Geese Theatre Company, Good Vibrations, The Koestler Trust, Fine Cell Work, Only Connect, Storybook Dads, Jail Guitar Doors, Knitting for Peace. They will be able to network at events, which will improve their practice and evaluative skills. This activity will, in turn improve delivery of future initiatives through innovation and researching effectiveness.

Criminal justice professionals. This group will comprise people whose main area of expertise is the criminal justice system, whether they from the statutory or third sector. Deputy Director of Custody - North East, NOMS, North East Prison Network, individual prison governors, business managers, chaplains, teachers and learning and skills managers, civil servants from NOMS and the Ministry of Justice, The Howard League for Penal Reform, NEPACs, Clinks and SafeGround. The seminar series will provide them with a sound theoretical justification for the inclusion of enrichment activities in their regimes and improve relationships between statutory and third sector and infrastructure organisations. This will lead to changes in arts-based policy making and practice at local, regional and national levels. It will allow for policy mobility from other countries, especially the US.

Researchers, evaluators and funders. Private and third sector organisations and individuals who have interest and expertise in arts and criminal justice systems or who have funded arts-based projects. Angus McLewin, AMA Consultancy; New Philanthropy Capital; Charities Evaluation Service; Northern Rock Foundation; The Motesiczky Charitable Trust. The events will build capacity and the networks of those attending, by making and solidifying relationships with practitioners and policy makers. The series will benefit the evidence base for enrichment activities by increasing the pool of available, quality research and by ensuring that funders require solid evidence of funded projects' effectiveness.

All of these professional groups will be able to draw on knowledge from research in fine art, criminology and social policy which approach the understanding of enrichment activities, criminal justice policies and practice and cultural management and evaluation differently. It will enable each of the groups to think more broadly about the impact of their work and to consider the best and most appropriate

The seminar series will clearly have an effect on the delivery of initiatives, which will have an impact on arts participants. As a result of the seminar series prisoners, former prisoners and offenders will experience, and in some cases, help facilitate arts, creative and spiritual activities within prisons differently. The resultant impact may be healthier and more mentally robust prisoners, calmer prison regimes with a more positive environment for prison staff to work and, ultimately, lower reoffending.


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Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
ES/J021784/1 01/11/2012 25/11/2012 £17,455
ES/J021784/2 Transfer ES/J021784/1 01/02/2013 30/04/2014 £15,374
Description Key findings report here: http://www.esrc.ac.uk/my-esrc/grants/ES.J021784.1/outputs/read/4aeddd4f-ea7d-419f-8e5d-5dee8580e595
Exploitation Route http://www.esrc.ac.uk/my-esrc/grants/ES.J021784.1/outputs/read/4aeddd4f-ea7d-419f-8e5d-5dee8580e595
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL http://www.esrc.ac.uk/my-esrc/grants/ES.J021784.1/outputs/read/4aeddd4f-ea7d-419f-8e5d-5dee8580e595