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FTRP Law & Politics Social Sciences

How can sport reduce the problem of overcrowding in British prisons?

This long-read article was written by lower-sixth former Barney Doyle, and shortlisted for the 2020 Fifth Form Transitional Research Project . The following provides a short abstract to his full essay.

Estimated read time of abstract: < 1 minute.

Estimated read time of essay: 12 minutes.

This long-read article was written by lower-sixth former Barney Doyle, and shortlisted for the 2020 Fifth Form Transitional Research Project. The following provides a short abstract to his full essay, which can be found at the bottom.

Estimated read time of abstract: 2 minutes
Estimated read time of essay: 12 minutes

Britain has a crippling overcrowding problem in prisons costing billions of taxpayers’ money. Two thirds of prisons are overcrowded leading to increases in levels of violence and poor mental health amongst inmates. This leads to longer prison sentences exacerbating a catastrophic problem. However, in my FTRP I propose a solution that is unorthodox but potentially very effective in reducing rates of reoffending and hence prison overcrowding. 

There are many well documented benefits to physical and mental health from regular participation in sport – such as reduced risk of coronary heart disease and stroke, type 2 diabetes, different types of cancer, reduced risk of depression, dementia, etc. Also, sport teaches lessons that are invaluable in life in general like: 

  • Teamwork 
  • Tenacity 
  • How to receive instructions – for example from captains or coaches 

There are also reports of how sport helps to reduce crime in communities all around the world.  For example, crime dropped by over 10% in Chicago when the Chicago Bears played American Football with potential offenders occupied by watching the game rather than committing crime. The chief custodial officer of New Zealand has spoken of the significance of participating in sport in prison saying it is ‘A great way of establishing a community spirit’.  

Regular participation in sport has also been shown to have the potential to reduce the number of re-offending prisoners. Inspired by Project Alcatraz, a project in Venezuela using rugby to help prisoners in some of the toughest prisons in the world, I created a programme for newly released prisoners in the UK. Project Alcatraz has been extremely effective at reducing the reoffending rate in Venezuela and I describe this successful project in my report.  My proposals involve setting up a network of support groups using over 60 rugby and football teams to help provide ex-prisoners with counselling, food, courses in various trades, transport to and from games and free kit.  Arguably most importantly, my proposals would provide a support network of people all going through the same experiences and challenges who are able to offer advice and help when it could matter the most. In addition, I detail the costs of running this programme and demonstrate how it could be not only self-funding but in fact save the Government tens of millions of pounds every year. 

In my report I explain how sport is not only one approach, but in my opinion the best way to reduce the 18,000 people overcrowded in British prisons today. 

To view Barney’s full article, follow this link below.

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