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

Lead Research Organisation: Bath Spa University
Department Name: Sch of Society Enterprise and Env


The UK government is considering a 'rehabilitation revolution'. It is investigating how to reduce the prison population and reoffending. Both of these will reduce monetary and emotional costs to the government and wider society. New policies will require all prisoners to learn a new skill or vocation for a job in prison, which will help then them lead law abiding lives after release. At the same time as vocational, educational and psychological initiatives are being run, prison and probation workshops are allowing offenders to paint and draw, embroider and stitch, make pottery and music, write and perform stories, poems and plays. They are being creative. Most of this activity is not strictly about changing an offender's behaviour or teaching them new vocational skills (although writing a story or a song might help with literacy). It is about ensuring that prisons fulfil their duty to punish and rehabilitate prisoners with decency and humanity.

When people take part in a creative, or spiritual, activity they feel 'affect'. Affect is a sense of belonging to a community, or a pride in something which they have made themselves. Australian researchers found that graffiti artists reported having the same sort of response when spray painting - committing the act of vandalism. If affect plays a role in offending behaviour, could it also play a part in reducing reoffending?

There is work to suggest that artistic 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 ideas 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.

This innovative seminar series is not just about increasing academic knowledge; it is important for artists, playwrights, actors, musicians, prison governors and staff, charitable funding agencies, researchers and civil servants and government policy makers. People from all of these groups will be invited to speak at, and take part in, the seminars so that they can share experience and ideas.

The 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. They will then be able to apply this knowledge to their understanding of what might change offenders' future behaviour and attitudes. Prison governors and staff will be able to talk about the impact that holding plays or exhibitions has on prisoners, which may then result in less violence and unacceptable behaviour in the prison. The seminar series will then draw all of these elements together in helping all participants to improve future research and evaluation. Improvements in recording best-practice will ensure that funds are allocated to only the most effective initiatives. An effective initiative is one that has a positive outcome: an improvement in a prisoner's mental health, might mean that they have to be seen by a doctor less often; prisoners learn to react less aggressively towards each other or staff because of the communication skills they learn staging a play, which means a calmer prison environment; a released prisoner setting up a business as a textile designer meaning that they are much less likely to reoffend. All of these positive outcomes are good for wider society.

While there has been a good deal of positive, creative activity being carried out in prisons for a number of years, it is only very recently that the research to show the impact of this work has begun to be published. This seminar series will ultimately improve the research and evidence that demonstrates effectivness and value for money when rehabilitating offenders.

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 Key findings report here: 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
Description The impact of the seminar series is most clearly demonstrated through the conversations, relationships, and networks it facilitated, and potentially more robustly from the research that has stemmed from the series. The impact of the networks that have developed and research that the series helped inspire cannot yet be fully captured, but the information below documents how these pathways are developing: As noted in the Arts Alliance (now known as the National Alliance for Arts in Criminal Justice) annual report 2012/13, "Delegates said the seminar was excellent or good at 'developing knowledge and understanding of enrichment activities in criminal justice' and 'networking and meeting colleagues'" (http://www.artsincriminaljustice.org.uk/sites/default/files/clinks_aa_annual-review-2012.pdf ). Overall, the feedback collected at each seminar demonstrated that the series was very well received and beneficial to participants. The series strengthened links between the seminar series PI (Caulfield) and Co-I (Bilby) and the National Alliance for Arts in Criminal Justice (formerly known as the Arts Alliance), with Bilby and Caulfield successfully tendering to lead a research project funded by the Alliance: http://www.artsincriminaljustice.org.uk/re-imagining-futures-exploring-arts-interventions-and-process-desistance Further to this, the series created active and developing links and enhanced practitioner and academic networks. The conversations held as part of the series, and in particular facilitated during the final seminar (Evaluating enrichment), contributed to the development of a large-scale research programme: http://www.artsincriminaljustice.org.uk/arts-alliance-research-project The seminar series fed into discussions that shaped the scope of this research, which went to competitive tender and is being led by researchers at the University of Cambridge. This research is under development, seeking significant funding, and 'aims to bring about a step-change in both the credibility and the reach of arts projects in criminal justice' (National Alliance for Arts in Criminal Justice, 2015). The series provided a platform for discussion, debate, and sharing of good practice in the sector. This included: practitioners sharing information about the practicalities of working in the arts in criminal justice; applying criminological and broader social science theory to this practical work; debating evaluation and evidence; and the opportunity to celebrate this area of work. The range of speakers and attendees facilitated lively discussion, interaction, and the creation of new networks. For practitioners and academics new to this area of work, they were able to make new contacts and learn from them. More established organisations were able to discuss their work with criminal justice professionals and policy makers. All were able to understand more fully the theoretical justification for the inclusion of enrichment activities in their regimes and improve relationships between statutory and third sector and infrastructure organisations. The seminar series also provided a platform to disseminate existing research evidence in this area (via promoting the Evidence Library (http://artsevidence.org.uk/about-arts-alliance/ ), which Caulfield and Bilby were involved in developing, enable attendees to think more broadly about the impact of their work and to consider the best and most appropriate ways of working.
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Cultural,Societal