Prisoners as Citizens: ‘Big Society’ and the ‘Rehabilitation Revolution’ – Truly Revolutionary?

Published 14/09/2011
Type Article
Author(s) Dr Hayden Bird, Dr Katherine E. Albertson
Corresponding Authors Dr Hayden Bird, formerly Hallam Centre for Community Justice, Sheffield Hallam University

Given the government’s commitment to localism, social inclusion and transfer of power from politicians to communities embodied by the Big Society  agenda, we question whether these principles have been adequately translated within ‘Payments by Results’ and the supposed ‘Rehabilitation Revolution’ Green Paper. Of all the communities in our diverse society, offenders should specifically be included to encourage them to become more responsible citizens and, therefore, participate fully in creating a more responsible society? However, accessing offender voices in the prison setting can often prove challenging, as will be discussed. The authors have been involved in using qualitative methodologies in evaluations of predominately voluntary sector arts and media projects with prison communities since 2005. With these data, this article explores opportunities for encouraging citizenship status in the prison community. Prisoners engaging with these projects report significant impacts of their engagement, including increases in their feelings of self worth, hope and belief in their own personal capacity to alter the way they behave.