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

Author(s):*Listed Alphabetically
Bilby C, Caulfield L, Ridley L

Year of Publication:

Arts Alliance

Publication Type:


This report was commissioned by the Arts Alliance – the national body representing arts in criminal justice- and was jointly funded by the Ministry of Justice and the Monument Trust.

The research explores how arts interventions contribute towards enabling offenders to form positive identities, build new narratives and build positive relationships with peers, staff and family. It also begins to investigate how arts interventions enable people to make significant behavioural changes.

The research team investigated five arts projects in four criminal justice settings, including practising visual arts in a high security adult male prison; music and deejaying skills with young offenders in the community; a musicmaking project in a resettlement (open) prison and creative writing and bookbinding in a closed female prison. The research team spent at least four sessions with each of the projects observing the activities and interviewing participants, arts practitioners and prison staff as part of an in-depth qualitative methodology. The team also used participants’ written work and evaluations, and examples of the work produced in the arts activities. This data was analysed using a thematic, content analysis approach.

This piece of research demonstrates a clear link between taking part in arts-based activities and the movement towards secondary desistance. It identifies the importance of arts practice for the participants and shows what types of outcomes successful projects should be producing.
Based on the findings, the research team make recommendations to arts organisations; to criminal justice agencies and service commissioners; to government and service commissioners.

Evidence Type: Qualitative Research

Main Focus: Wellbeing / Quality of life

Research Purpose: Outcome Evaluation

Context: Forensic / Secure

Participant Group: Adults

Art Forms: Multi-Arts

Access Type: Free Download

APA Citation:

Bilby C., Caulfield L., Ridley L (2013). Re-imagining futures: Exploring arts interventions and the process of desistance. London: National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance