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Project information

Creativity in prison: breaking the monotony

Prisoners' Education Trust wants to meet the record demand for arts materials and distance learning courses, and provide advice and guidance to men and women in prison. Arts activities are under threat in prison, and prisoners are spending more time locked in cell. PET provides a creative lifeline.

The work is ongoing - support of this work would help prisoners throughout 2016.

Charity information: Prisoners Education Trust

Prisoners Education Trust logo
  • Need


    Budget cuts for the prison service have resulted in fewer staff on the wings, reducing the amount of time prisoners can safely spend out of their cells. Budget cuts have also significantly reduced the staffing and resources available for arts classes within prison education departments. Where prisons used to provide arts materials and class room support from art tutors, this support is being lost, seen as an unnecessary extra, rather than as a vital rehabilitative tool.


    PET provides advice and guidance for prisoners who wish to study art, and we fund arts materials, such as oil paints, canvases, modelling kits, felts and papers. We also provide distance learning courses from recognised bodies including the National Extension College (NEC), Open University and the Open College of the Arts (OCA) in subjects such as art history, art techniques, drawing and painting. These courses provide a progression route for individuals as they build confidence and skills.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    To provide 75 prisoners with access to art materials.


    » Provide 75 prisoners with information about the materials available; provide guidance as they apply for support; & ensure materials are ordered/arrive

    What success will look like

    75 prisoners have been provided to the arts materials they requested, addressing their personal areas of interest and self-development.

    Aim 2

    Provide 20 prisoners with access to arts related distance learning courses.


    » Provide prisoners with information about courses available; help them and prison staff as they apply for support; ensure courses are ordered & arrive.

    What success will look like

    20 prisoners have started distance learning courses in arts related subjects. Some of these individuals will have also received arts materials and will use these in their studies.

    Aim 3

    To provide tailored advice to 20 prisoners regarding their artistic aspirations.


    » Undertake advice visits to prisons; provide support via letter & telephone; liaise with prison staff who often ask for advice on behalf of prisoners.

    What success will look like

    20 prisoners have received tailored advice from our advice manager, who has supoprted them as they make decisions about course choice, next steps, & further learning beyond prison.

    Aim 4

    Help prisoners manage their sentence more effectively, building confidence and emotional resilience.


    » Support their learning aspirations; record the self-reported changes to confidence and self-belief e.g. in letters; undertake monitoring & evaluation.

    What success will look like

    A reported increase in self-esteem and self-belief, with prisoners progressing to higher level courses and/or entering work into arts awards.

  • Impact


    PET's arts materials and distance learning provision is proven by the Ministry of Justice to reduce reoffending. As such, long term there will be a reduction in the impact of crime in our communities. In the short term, prisoners will be more postively engaged in prison, & their experience of long hours locked in cell will be vastly improved. Mental health issues can be eased & for some prisoners, family relationships will improve, as they use art to reconnect with loved ones e.g. making gifts.


    Risks lie with the interruptions prisoners experience when transferred from prison to prison - this can make it difficult for them to complete courses or fully use materials. The benefit of our distance learning provision is that the materials can travel with them. Another risk lies in prisoners starting courses which are at too high or too low a level for their abilities. We address this with our advice provision, ensuring individuals undertake courses most suited to their needs and skills.


    Where individual donors have asked for updates, we will send them a report after twelve months providing an overview of the activities undertaken and the numbers supported. We will provide case studies and summary information from our monitoring activities.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £16,375

    Loading graph....
      Amount Heading Description
      £7,875 Arts materials Providing arts materials to 75 individuals, using our average materials cost of £105 per prisoner
      £8,500 Arts related distance learning Providing arts related distance learning courses to 20 prisoners, based on average figure of £425
  • Background


    This work will be undertaken in prisons across England and Wales: PET works with the majority of the prison estate, and undertakes advice visits to as many prisons as possible. Our office is based in Vauxhall, London, and it is from here that we provide telephone support.


    Direct beneficiaries are men and women in prison varying in age from 18 years old to the elderly. They are often from disadvantaged backgrounds and have limited access to support or funds outside prison. Indirectly, prison staff and fellow prisoners will benefit from more engaged prisoners. Ultimately prisoners' families and our communities will benefit from a reduction in reoffending.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    Since 1989, PET has supported over 30,000 men and women in prison; we are the main provider of courses, arts/hobby materials, advice and guidance at a national level across England and Wales. We have a range of advice materials we can send to prisoners such as our Distance Learning Curriculum which features some of the arts courses available. We have an expertise in learner voice, and learner views influence our provision. Our work is proven by the Ministry of Justice to reduce reoffending.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Suzan Nabbanja

    Suzan has over ten years experience with PET, working with the Access to Learning Team, and supporting prisoners and prison staff.

    John Lister

    John is our Advice Manager and has a wealth of experience in careers guidance in the prison service.

A thank you letter from a prisoner

A thank you letter from a prisoner