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‘Sports club’ prison project has ‘inspiring’ effect on young people

The Alliance of Sport has completed a Sport England-funded pilot project in two secure establishments in Kent which tested the effectiveness of sports clubs on reducing offending. 

The weekly sports clubs (principally boxing and football) – consisting of coaching, personal development and mentoring – were delivered by partner organisations Fight For Peace and Charlton Athletic Community Trust (CACT) to young people inside Medway Secure Training Centre and HMP Cookham Wood.

The aim of the project was to identify best practice in using sport to reduce offending, by: 

  • designing and testing a new training programme for community-based organisations and secure establishment staff delivering sport in a custodial environment 
  • developing a model to increase the quality and enhance experience of sport and physical activity whilst in custody, and understand its impact
  • developing partnerships between community sport organisations and secure establishments, and evaluating how the two can work together (through delivery of the ‘Sport Club’ model) to effectively influence case management and mentoring of young offenders to support them through the gate, and support their rehabilitation into society. 

Research evaluating the sports club model’s impact was led by Dr Juliette Stebbings from the University of Portsmouth. It’s clear from her full report (download below) and the feedback of all partners that many aspects of the project had a significant impact.

Dan Luker, Head of Regime at Medway Secure Training Centre, commented: “The partnership with Fight for Peace has been a successful collaboration which not only provided an opportunity to demonstrate that boxing works in a custodial setting, but also as a holistic activity for young people and staff. 

“The project not only enabled the Centre to develop its own boxing activity, which is managed through trained staff, but also enabled through-the-gate opportunities for young people which have been utilised for temporary release and as part of young people’s resettlement programmes.” 

Fight For Peace in action in the community (Andy Aitchison)

Fight for Peace undertook training of staff in personal development and through the Amateur Boxing Association England Level 1 coaching course, so they could assist in delivering the sessions. Centre staff now continue to run boxing sessions and deliver the Boxing Tutor awards. Two young people have passed the Preliminary Certificate and are now undertaking the Bronze Certificate. The positive relationships built between participants, their peers and staff have led to extended beyond the prison gates, with young people receiving support and training while out on temporary release. 

Katie-Wambui Kings, a Youth Worker and coach with Fight for Peace, said: “We worked with between two and seven young people each week and over the whole project managed to engage four girls. The sessions consisted of team building, personal development, non-contact training, yoga and meditation. 

“The one-to-one training with an empowering and caring coach is phenomenal for building trusting relationships between youth workers and young people, especially those with whom it is more difficult to engage. I am so proud of what we did at Medway, it worked so well. 

“The way that the young people connected and focused in the sessions, the way their mood and behaviour were so different from the beginning of the session to the end – it was inspiring.” 

Michael Ward, Head of Sports and Football Development for CACT, added: “We are proud to have worked alongside the Alliance of Sport in developing and delivering such an innovative project within HMP Cookham Wood and Medway Secure Training Centre. 

“Although the programme had its challenges the successes and case studies coming from this piece of community work speak volumes to the impact of the programme and how important collaborative work is within Sport for Development.” 

Alliance of Sport Chair James Mapstone said: “We are immensely proud to have managed this project and excited to share the research detailing its impact. We put the framework in place and were intrigued to see how it was delivered by our fantastic partners. 

“Our hope is that community sport organisations, the voluntary sector and the secure estate will now be better equipped to work together cohesively, anticipate barriers and maximise their impact on reoffending.” 

Justin Coleman, the Alliance of Sport’s Secretariat, led the training of Fight for Peace, CACT and prison staff using the Trauma-Informed Mentoring Programme. 

He reflected: “Now staff have finished the training, they have in-depth knowledge of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), how to build a participant’s resilience and how to maintain and regulate resilience within themselves as a delivery team and their organisations. 

“Both Fight for Peace and CACT have now built a robust organisation-centred Trauma Informed and Public Health Approach Mentoring Service that is set to ensure any high-risk, at-risk or preventative people they engage with are fully supported. 

“Each and every one of the 14 staff on the programme worked tirelessly to learn, share and motivate each other towards the completion of their Level 3 qualification. It is a fantastic achievement by them all!” 

Download the full report from the Alliance of Sport’s ‘Sports Club’ project below, authored by Dr Juliette Stebbings of the University of Portsmouth.

Participants featured in the above images are taking part in Fight For Peace and CACT community sport projects and were not part of the Sports Club project

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