Hamburger Menu Twitter logo Instagram logo linkedIn logo facebook logo Home Scroll Down Arrow
White corner

The 3 Pillars Project: a course set to revolutionise rehabilitation

Could a combination of rugby and military discipline be the keys to the rehabilitation of both adult and young offenders?

Founder of the 3 Pillars Project, Michael Crofts (Mike), thinks so. PrisonWatchUK met with the former Royal Tank Regiment Captain to find out more.

The 3 Pillars: Exercise, education and ethos 

Mike explained the 3 Pillars Project sets out to do three things:

  1. To reduce violence and reoffending among young offenders by giving them appropriate role models and mentors 
  2. To reduce violence and reoffending among the adult prison population by giving them decent economic prospects
  3. To achieve greater engagement between the community and the justice system. It is not acceptable in our society to have over 80,000 people in prison – that’s the size of the British army in prison

Mike coaching

The idea 

After serving eight years in the Royal Tank Regiment of the British Army as a Captain, Mike went on to volunteer with a west London voluntary reading group and regularly coaches a Battersea rugby team.

Using his experience as a rugby coach Mike said: “It’s obvious that the boys, who are all 16, really benefit from having a coach, a role model, a male figure who is consistent and fair.

“For a lot of young offenders there is a complete lack of decent male role models. They’ve gone seeking guidance and mentorship but have found a structure that is completely toxic.”

The key to success, Mike said, “is not telling the boys what to do, they’ve been told what not to do their whole lives. If they’re 16 and in prison they need to wake up and realise they are wasting the best years of their lives locked up and afraid they might get beaten up.”

He added: “They need to be given the space to figure out for themselves that there is a chance of a job, of going out with their mates, meeting girls and finishing their studies.

“And the guys we work with, who themselves have strong leadership skills, are able to engage with people and are physically robust are the examples and the mentors these boys need.”

The course 

“The course is made up of three elements – hence the 3 Pillars. Offenders will develop skills in three strands: physical, education and ethos. All with the aim of stemming violence in prison and reducing reoffending rates.”

These three together make for a strong course and strengthen the individual in mind, body and soul.”


“Our ethos is central to the course and is informed by our military service and core values of loyalty, integrity and discipline.

“It focuses on developing offender’s self control, self respect and self awareness through physical exercise and education.”


The physical component of the course is made up of a combination of a very intense style of rugby and military command tasks. All aimed to instil the central ethos of the Three Pillars: discipline, loyalty and integrity.

Mike says rugby helps develop offenders communication and self awareness skills. Image: Joz3.69


“As well as releasing endorphins and getting offenders outside, the intense style we teach forces the players right into each other’s faces, which means more knocks, bangs and bumps.

“Playing rugby forces interaction between players and helps develop self control, communication and self awareness.

“What’s more, rugby is a way for prisoners to free themselves. While they are in prison, offenders are completely controlled. But when they’re on a rugby pitch and told, ok, you need to hit that guy, you need to tackle him as hard as you can, it’s a quite freeing feeling.

“The thing to understand is prison is in no way like the real world. By freeing themselves on the rugby pitch, we’re helping offenders control themselves in the real world. We’re teaching them to control their reactions to things.” 

He said: “It’s not really about having fun or playing sport at all, it’s about engaging these people, having decent conversations with them and helping them figure out what they want to achieve in the next few years.”

Military command tasks

These focus on developing good old fashioned team work skills and are usually a simple task but one that requires a great deal of communication.

For instance, a group of six might be standing on a ground sheet and be asked to turn over that ground sheet without touching the floor. This forces individuals to work collaboratively and is developing communication skills.


Offenders have lessons and assessments in both numeracy and literacy and are given the opportunity to develop their skills further with the prison’s own education department.

Simultaneously the coaches teach a lot of sports related education – diet and nutrition, injury prevention, fitness awareness and a first aid course.

As well as sports education, offenders receive tuition in coaching skills and advice on CV building and interview techniques.

The future 

The project is currently in its early stages but Mike is hopeful.

“The first full course will be run over the summer of 2016 and although this is for prisoners already engaged in sport, we won’t stop there.

“We’re ambitious and believe the course can be used for both vulnerable and violent offenders, men and women, the adult population and young offenders.

“We’re working with Wandsworth and Feltham and we want to reach out to Downview and potentially even Bronzefield in time.”

PrisonWatchUK is set to follow the 3 Pillars Project’s progress with an update scheduled at the end of summer 2016.