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Under Secretary of State wants to expand sport’s role in criminal justice

Alex Chalk, Under Secretary of State for Justice, pledged his full support for strengthening the use of sport in criminal justice at Monday night’s (May 17) All Party Parliamentary Group meeting.

Addressing fellow attendees at our third APPG on Sport and Physical Activity in the Criminal Justice System, the Minister praised the role sport had played in the Secure Estate during the pandemic, and added that “it now has a much wider role to play” across the justice system as we emerge from Covid-19.

The Minister highlighted the National Custodial Indoor Rowing League (first piloted at HMPYOI Feltham and now involving 50 custodial establishments) and the ‘Cell to 5k’ initiative that have provided crucial release from long periods of difficult prisoner incarceration during the pandemic.

Outside of the pandemic, Mr Chalk namechecked many other “tried and tested” and “impressive” examples of best practice that have positively impacted on crime, violence and reoffending both in prisons and in the community, including RoadStarz, the Twinning Project, parkrun and Levelling the Playing Field.

He concluded: “I’m so pleased to see this group created and I commend the founders of it. It will champion the use [of sport] and hold the Government to account on how it uses this important rehabilitative tool to best effect. I look forward to working with you all to ensure that sport and physical activity plays a greater role in turning offenders’ lives around for good.”

Vice-Chair, Rt. Hon. Lord McNally, (former Minister of State for Justice and ex-Chair of the Youth Justice Board) commented that the Minister’s views “show a major change in approach” in Government attitudes towards sport and physical activity’s role in criminal justice.

Baroness Amanda Sater, Co-Chair, added: “We warmly welcome the Minister’s enthusiasm for sport and physical activity in the Criminal Justice System, especially post-Covid. It is wonderful to see so much passion and energy within this newly formed group and we look forward to working with the Government so that sport and physical activity plays a much greater role in turning offenders’ lives around.”

The APPG also heard from Kate Davies CBE, Director of Health and Justice, Armed Forces and Sexual Assault Referral Centres for NHS England and NHS Improvement.

Her presentation focused on how sport and physical activity can help address the “stark” health gap between people in the Criminal Justice System and the general public, with those in prison, or on the fringes of the system, suffering disproportionately with mental health problems, illness, substance misuse, adverse childhood experiences, musculoskeletal and respiratory conditions and blood borne viruses.

Davies called for a “strategic, equitable and fair” plan to enhance mental and physical health and to address these inequalities, with social prescribing as a central ethos.

Andrew Clarke, NHS England’s National Improvement Lead – Forensic CAMHS, said: “Sport is an amazing tool and opportunity to get people talking about themselves; it can be that first step to tackling issues such as obesity and mental health.”

NHS Senior Expert Advisor, Sunny Dhadley, added: “Sport is the hook which draws people into wider support. It’s really important we see the full breadth of an individual’s journey when we use sport to empower people and improve their lives.”

James Mapstone, Chief Executive of Alliance of Sport and Secretariat of the Group, commented: “We were delighted that 34 attendees joined us for another showcase for the great work happening in the sector. Whilst some organisations were mentioned by name, we know there are many more doing tireless work in the community and the Secure Estate and we will shine a spotlight on more examples of good practice to ensure this work is recognised and celebrated.”

You can follow the latest news from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Sport and Physical Activity in the Criminal Justice System on Twitter.

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