Olympics legacy for sports rehabilitation in prisons is being wasted

24 Jul 2013

On the first anniversary of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the potential for using sports to rehabilitate people in prison has not been explored, says PET.

PET Chief Executive Rod Clark said:

"The cost of reoffending to society is huge, it is higher than paying to host the Olympics every single year. The London 2012 Games were simply fabulous, and we are concerned that its potential legacy, to inspire and educate prisoners through sports, is being lost. This is desperately disappointing because we know sports-based learning has the power to break the cycle of a life of crime."

This time last year PET launched Fit For Release, to highlight the evidence and value of sports to improve the behaviour and rehabilitation of people in prison. The report found that aside from the health benefits of sport, it can also be an effective way to engage prisoners in further education and improve their employability. However, cuts to budgets are preventing many prisons from taking advantage of the benefits sport has to offer.

Dr Rosie Meek, Head of Criminology and Sociology, Royal Holloway University of London, who co-authored the report, said:

"We are one year on from the Olympics but many of the promises about how sports would be used as a social inclusion tool have not been fulfilled. There are examples of innovative and effective practices in some prisons that are helping to target reoffending but sports still isn’t seen as a priority."

Despite the lack of resources or funding for sports-based learning as the report highlights there are innovative initiatives in some prisons which are continuing to run, thanks to partnerships with charities and corporate organisations. The result of such initiatives is that more people have the opportunity to get a job, volunteer or take on further study when they are released.

Editor’s Notes

For interviews, photos or further information please contact Susannah Henty, Media Manager: Susannah@prisonerseducation.org.uk; 020 8648 7760 or visit www.prisonerseducation.org.uk. Case studies and interviews with former prisoners whose lives have been transformed by sports-based learning are available on request.


The NAO have estimated the annual cost to society for prisoners re-offending on release is up to £13bn. The cost of London 2012 was £8.77bn.

About PET

Since 1989, Prisoners' Education Trust (PET) has supported prisoners to engage in rehabilitation through learning. The charity does this by providing advice and funding for approximately 2,000 people per year for distance learning courses in subjects and levels not generally available in prisons. PET also carries out research, informed by prisoner learners, to improve prison education policies.

In 2012 PET launched the Prisoner Learning Alliance to work together with 18 other expert organisations to champion learning for people in prison.