Prison reform that works: Inmates learn skills to prevent reoffending

Safe Ground empowers people to change with arts programmes

While locking people up and throwing away the key might sound like a good way to treat criminals, it doesn’t undo crimes or bring people we love back.

Instead, rehabilitation does create change; not only giving offenders a second shot at life but also helping society with reduced crime rates and safer citizens.

Yet even though this outcome is proven to be a better model, prisons still struggle to implement it.

[Credit: Safe Ground]

However, one organisation is powering forward to help transform lives and prove that rehabilitation can deliver greater success than punishment.

Safe Ground is a small team with big ambitions to change the narrative for those behind bars by showing that they are people too, and capable of reform with the right education.

They also strive to challenge offenders into exploring relationships and ‘do’ them differently.

[Credit: Safe Ground]

Talking about how they aspire to this, the team explained: “We say ‘do’ relationships because we believe relationships to be active, alive and participatory.

“We are ‘doing’ them all the time. Our work is about the consciousness and awareness we all bring to our relationships – with ourselves, with others and with systems.

“We use a range of arts, therapeutic and group work methods to reflect, analyse and really consider how we are in the world and how we each carry the world in us.”

The Safe Guard crew – founded by Antonia Rubinstein and Polly Freeman in 1993 – also use drama, dialogue and debate on their mission to support inmates into developing self-awareness.

[Credit: Safe Ground]

They do this by visiting prisons across the UK and delivering art and theatre programmes to prisoners as well as supporting family members on the outside and living in communities.

Back in the 90s, the work was rooted in theatre, with their first ever venture being a production of The Tempest at HMP Young Offenders Institute Huntercombe.

Following several productions, Safe Guard were invited by the Home Office to design a family relationships programme to use across the English and Welsh male prison estate.

Speaking about the partnership, the founders said their work has become an enormous field of research into how to cope with the difficulties and costs of having someone in prison.

[Credit: Safe Ground]

They said: “People in prison face significant barriers to continuing, sustaining and improving family relationships and so we deliver work to help both those inside and those at home.

“Our arts work and our events have been a big part of our development, as has our continued interest in research and evidence.

“We are proud of our partnerships and the ways in which we have been able to respond to and pre-empt policy, practice and social changes over the years.”

We only have to look at other countries to assess the efficacy of their models; notably Norway, who focus on rehabilitation over punishment, has one of the lowest crime rates worldwide, while America, who put punishment before rehabilitation, has extremely high crime rates.

For more info, click here: Safe Ground.

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