Re-imagining futures: Exploring arts interventions and the process of desistance

Carried out by Northumbria University and Bath Spa University, this report highlights examples of how the arts can support positive changes linked to personal agency, efficacy and identity, which are linked to the highly individualised journey of desistance from criminal behaviour. 

“We all know from our personal experience how participating in or creating art has the possibility to change how we see the world and our place in it. This is true for prisoners too – and I have seen how great arts project in prisons can play a crucial role in helping prisoners see a new crime-free future for themselves. I hope this report will be of value to all those concerned with the prison system making the best use possible of the opportunities created by the link between the arts and desistance.” – Nick Hardwick, HM chief Inspector of Prisons

The report's key findings are as follows:

  • Participation in arts activities enables individuals to begin to redefine themselves.
  • Arts projects facilitate high levels of engagement.
  • Arts projects can have a positive impact on how people manage themselves during their sentence, particularly on their ability to cooperate with others.
  • Engagement with arts projects facilitates increased compliance with criminal justice orders and regimes.
  • The status of arts practitioners as professional artists is highly significant in the success of projects and their impact on participants.
  • Arts projects provide safe spaces for individuals to have positive experiences and begin to make individual choices.

Tim Robertson, Chair of the Arts Alliance and CEO of the Koestler Trust, says: "The report offers a strong basis for the Arts Alliance to go forward to even greater developments in policy, practice and research."