Complementing treatment through creative recovery activity in Prisons

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18 October 2017

Phoenix's Head of Operations CJ Williams has a wealth of experience in delivering recovery focused criminal justice services. Here he discusses the role of creative recovery activity as part of effective prison rehabilitation programmes.  

Even though we all recognise resources are stretched within prisons, we believe everyone should feel confident about their recovery, their ability to sustain change and become a positive member of their community.

Without good friends, decent housing, health and wellbeing and self-worth no amount of treatment will lead to a successful recovery. Our approach therefore is built around Evidence based recovery capital theory (White and Cloud 2008, Best et al 2010).

Aligned with the Recovery Orientated Systems of Care (White, 2008) we provide support that is recovery-orientated that brings about sustained recovery. We tailor our approach to each prison and its population’s needs and drawing from our experience of delivering in a diverse breadth of establishment type.

The following are just a few of my favourite examples of how our service users in prisons can be helped to feel confident about creating sustained, meaningful, recovery for themselves and their families.


Creating Hope

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One of the many difficulties faced by prisoners at HMP Whitemoor is a lack of hope. Due to serving long sentences, prisoners can experience a loss of hope and feel they have no future.  We work with service users to find a purpose and build hope. For example, we supported a Life-sentenced service user to set-up a project named ‘Tricky Times’. The service user developed leaflets, workbooks and a DVD, utilising his experiences to educate and deter children from crime. This project is now delivered across schools in the local area. Through setting-up the project, the service user developed a sense of purpose and was able to give something back to the community.


Recovery through Nature

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In HMP Chelmsford, Phoenix’s Full Circle are currently working closely with the Head of Reducing Re-Offending and the Learning Skills manager as well as the Essex Wildlife Trust and our partnership project Futures in Mind to enhance the ‘Recovery through Nature’ project.  A joint visit was recently undertaken between Full Circle and HMP Chelmsford to an established project in the Basildon area run by Futures in Mind with a view to replicating this within the prison.  An area of land has now been identified within the prison grounds and the project is due to commence in January 2018.

With our partners we created an asset fund at HMP Garth to encourage innovation. Our Recovery through Nature programme at HMP Garth recently won £500 from the fund to develop a project that grows vegetables and other produce sold in a farm shop. They also grow flowers and have a bug hotel!  


Recovery through Arts

The Discover service at HMP Wymott provides drama, art therapy, music, yoga, sports days, fundraising, coffee afternoons, recovery events and qualifications. The staff and service users created and performed 4 original pantomime performances at our family day. These scripts written by service users have moral messages suited to a family audience and were performed service users, staff and management together.



Recovery through Sport

Our Recovery through Sport Programme can improve physical health which is linked to improved recovery outcomes. In HMP Winchester we partner with Southampton Football Club to deliver Saints 4 Sport (S4S) groups in the prison, running pre-release groups for prisoners who can then engage in the S4S resettlement programme and access volunteering opportunities.



Our recovery activities complement treatment in prison that enable the Recovery Capital gains made in custody to be sustained through the gate. We know that this helps people to continue engaging in treatment beyond release a key indicator for recovery success beyond the gate as evidenced by the highest rates of continuity of care across the country. For example this is at almost 42% for HMP Chelmsford in comparison to the national average (30.3%).



Phoenix Futures is a registered charity in England and Wales (No 284880) and in Scotland (No SCO39008); Company Limited by Guarantee Number 1626869; Registered Provider of Social Housing with Homes England (H3795).