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Sport and desistance from crime

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The Role of Sport in Promoting Desistance from Crime: An Evaluation of the 2nd Chance Project Rugby and Football Academies at Portland Young Offender Institution

I've never met her but I love Dr. Rosie Meek's enthusiasm and passion for the research she carried out and, as the son of a professional footballer who coached kids' teams in later life and the nephew of a prison art teacher, I cannot but agree that sport should have a much greater role in the treatment and rehabilitation of offenders. Although I would add that some of the tackles you used to get in local football asked for a prison sentence......

She writes: "After two years of gathering data at the prison and in the community I now have a large and complex quantitative dataset which has revealed important findings,supported by rich qualitative transcripts which bring vividly to life the stories of the individuals whose futures have been transformed through participation in the initiative.....The results clearly confirm that sport can be an effective tool for engaging with young prisoners, and I hope that funding bodies, sporting organisations, policy makers and prisons will commit to developing collaborative efforts to continue this innovative and effective approach.


Research Summary

• A total of 81 young male adult offenders at HMP YOI Portland participated over a two year period.

• Participants were representative of the male young adult prisoner population according to offence category and risk

of reoffending.

• Of the fifty participants who have been released over the past 18 months, nine have reoffended or been recalled to

prison, representing an 18% reconviction rate (compared to a prison average of 48% after one year).

• Statistically significant improvements were observed in established measures of conflict resolution, aggression,

impulsivity, and attitudes towards offending following participation.

• Qualitative interviews and testimonies illustrate the positive impact of participation on behaviour within the prison,

staff-prisoner relationships and the resettlement opportunities of prisoners in managing the transition from custody

to community.

• The evaluation findings have verified that the project has facilitated a unique opportunity for delivery staff and

community partners to engage with those prisoners who can be especially hard-to-reach. The initiative has enabled

offenders and delivery staff to develop positive support and mentoring relationships, and has motivated individuals to

take responsibility for their actions, and inspired them to generate positive aspirations for the future.

• Despite initially being of the opinion that the resettlement component of the academy would merely replicate existing

provision, members of prison staff have found the expertise of 2nd Chance an indispensable aspect of their work.

• In providing specialist help that is tailored to an individual’s complex needs, the through-the-gate involvement of 2nd

Chance has enabled offenders to maintain positive support relationships across the critical transition from custody to



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