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Fit for release - How sports-based learning can help prisoners engage in education, gain employment and desist from crime

Did you know that the annual cost of reoffending is the same as the cost of hosting the London 2012 Olympics?

As we consider the legacy of the Games in London, our report ‘Fit for Release’ examines how sports-based learning in prison can be used to address offending behaviour and help reduce reoffending.

Click here to access and read the full report.

In this report we draw together a compelling body of evidence from prisoner learners and other stakeholders which demonstrates the value of sport as a rehabilitative tool in prison settings, specifically in relation to educational and employment opportunities. We recognise that while sport alone will not necessarily prevent reoffending, it offers an effective and powerful way in which to embed numeracy and literacy, promote higher level learning and motivate prisoners who may be difficult to engage in other resettlement, educational or psychological interventions.

We reveal the strong motivations for prisoners to engage in sports and fitness studies, typically against a backdrop of especially disrupted and negative educational experiences. We also highlight an enthusiasm for, and commitment to, employment in the sports and leisure industry by prisoners with a history of worklessness and lack of career aspirations.

Such motivation requires support and guidance in order to be nurtured into life-transforming opportunities and we argue that policy makers, prison staff, educational providers and sporting bodies all hold a responsibility for making such aspirations possible. This report investigates what qualifications and skills employers in the sports and fitness industry are looking for and their opinions about employing ex-offenders. We highlight how sports-based projects and support with distance learning in prisons can help prisoners achieve their education and employability goals.

As phase 4 of the Offender Learning and Skills Service (OLASS) begins, we hope that this report raises awareness that sports-based learning can be utilised with custodial populations to address offending behaviour and ultimately reduce reoffending. We also hope that the case studies will inspire best practice to be shared across the prison estate and that the recommendations will be acted upon so that prisoners can be better supported in becoming ‘fit for release’.

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