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Arts Council England publish evidence review

Arts Council England publish evidence review

Arts Council England (ACE) today published Arts and culture in health and wellbeing and in the criminal justice system: A summary of evidence – the final piece of research conducted as part of its evidence review for the next ten-year strategy 2020-30.

Co-authored by Richard Ings and John McMahon, the summary of evidence cites nearly 200 academic papers and other sources (almost all from within the past five years), and credits the National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance’s Evidence Library as its main source for criminal justice evaluations.

The report provides an overview of the existing evidence base and follows research developments through impact on desistance to outlining how and why arts interventions in the criminal justice system work. It highlights areas for new work and ways to move towards a ’rounded evidence base.’

It suggests, “arts and cultural work with offenders has often been vilified” and “as this affects ‘making the case’, there is need for further research into what impact work shared with the general public [such as with Koestler Trust, Clean Break, Watts Gallery and Ikon Gallery] has on the narrative.

John McMahon has written a useful blog that sets out the current policy context and highlights a few themes of the report. He says, “the research highlights the strong contribution of the arts as offenders seek to develop a new, more positive identity, as well as upon their sense of self-efficacy and agency in the world.

The National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance welcomes the publication of this resource and is encouraged by ACE’s continued – and indeed, increasing – support for the sector.


The consultation on ACE’s ten-year strategy is open until 2 January 2019. We strongly encourage everyone working in the arts to respond and to consider work across broader social outcomes and in criminal justice settings when they do so.


Image courtesy of Arts Council England