The Arts in Criminal Justice a Study of Research Feasibility

Author(s):*Listed Alphabetically
Clarke R, Miles A

Year of Publication:

University of Manchester: Centre for Research on Socio Cultural Change

Publication Type:


Emanating from the multi-agency, inter-departmental Research into Arts and Criminal Justice Think Tank (REACTT), this study is the second element of a three-part research plan designed to strengthen the evidence base for the arts as an effective medium in offender rehabilitation.

Its focus is on the practical, logistical and methodological issues involved in carrying out effective research on the impact of arts interventions in criminal justice settings. Rather than producing evidence of project outcomes, it is concerned to address the issue of what constitutes good quality research and evidence in this context and, most particularly, what the obstacles are to producing it.

The original design for the study was to compare six projects, allowing comparisons to be made by criminal justice context, art form, gender and ethnicity. In the event, logistical difficulties with project recruitment produced a total of five projects with a skew towards female projects and custodial environments.

The research design across the study varied according to the particular (often changing) circumstances and dynamics of each project. In differing combinations, six key data gathering methods were trialled for their feasibility and effectiveness: profiling; psychometrics; observation; interviews; diaries and tracking.

Evidence from interviews, observation, and psychometric testing indicates that the projects brought about positive shifts in engagement, self-esteem, confidence, self-control and the ability to co-operate. There is some suggestion that arts-based interventions may benefit vulnerable individuals in particular, and that they may be better at dealing with some issues (such as self-harm) than others.

In the present context the main opportunity for arts in criminal justice research within the Home Office model lies with process evaluations and the exploration of intermediate or non-reconviction outcomes. Here the adoption of a multi-method realist evaluation framework offers the arts in criminal justice a more sympathetic and workable research model, which, arguably, is also more powerful when it comes to distilling and explaining intervention impacts.

Evidence Type: Non-Randomised Evaluation

Main Focus: Wellbeing / Quality of life

Research Purpose: Primary Research

Context: Forensic / Secure

Participant Group: Adults

Art Forms: Multi-Arts

Access Type: Free Download

APA Citation:

Miles, A. and Clarke, R. (2006). The Arts in Criminal Justice a Study of Research Feasibility. University of Manchester: Centre for Research on Socio Cultural Change.