Hard Times: Is the ‘Rehabilitation Revolution’ Bad News for Enrichment Activities with Prisoners?

Published 13/03/2002
Type Article
Author(s) Rose Parkes
Corresponding Authors Rose Parkes, Senior Lecturer in Community and Criminal Justice, De Montfort University

The sociological literature pertaining to the nature of imprisonment has long documented the harm endured by the incarcerated. Such unease has led a range of commentators to challenge the over-reliance on imprisonment and the concomitant demotion of rehabilitative approaches, which have commonly been regarded as ‘soft on crime’ in a neoliberal populist punitive climate. However, recent economic and political changes have led to the promise of a ‘rehabilitation revolution’ relying on collaboration between the state and third sector agencies. Whilst this new direction would appear to support the use of artistic and spiritual activities, which foster empathy, healing and transformation, the intention to make prisons places of ‘hard work and industry’ alongside ‘Payment by Results’ may eradicate all such prospects. The potential benefits of enrichment activities as part of a strengths-based rehabilitation model will be considered in this article, which will review the current state of artistic and spiritual initiatives in prisons alongside empirical data gathered at a weekly yoga class in a UK adult male prison. By so doing, this paper discusses the potential impact of the proposed rehabilitation revolution on enrichment activities and considers whether their unique merits warrant a reconsideration of what should be valued in criminal justice responses.