Prison Programme Evaluations
Safe Ground understands the importance of evaluation and have committed to a rolling programme of independent research over the lifetime of both Family Man and Fathers Inside. Our programmes are constantly being developed and refined in response to this research to ensure that the needs of prisoners and their families are always at the forefront of what we do.
Additionally, the programmes have featured as case studies in a number of good practice reports by the Fatherhood Institute, Prisoners Education Trust, the Family Strategic Partnership and New Philanthropy Capital.
How do we know the programmes work?
The NOMS / Safe Ground programmes aim to address the complex needs of male offenders and our evaluations demonstrate how we accomplish this.
Both programmes are mapped to a number of NOCN awards, requiring the student to complete a range of written, spoken and group activities in order to achieve accreditation.
In 2009 we commissioned Professor McGuire to evaluate the Family Man programme and to write a Theory Manual based on his findings. He reviewed the course content and identified a process of change which students will go through as a result of participating in the programme.
There is a clear “educational element, grounded in a process of cognitive change, progressively activated by a series of structured learning exercises”. The same teaching techniques are employed in the Fathers Inside manual and part of our research plan over the next two years involves establishing how far these positive changes take place in FI as well.
Professor Boswell conducted a review of the educational content of our programmes in 2006 and concluded “the drama based and experimental nature of this learning has been shown to raise the levels of confidence of groups of men, many of whom may previously have had only negative experiences of education and none of educational achievement.”
Employability and Personal Development
Family Man and Fathers Inside provide the vital first step towards improving students’ employability skills by encouraging teamwork, responsibility, listening and confidence.
The Family Man Theory Manual produced by McGuire also identified two other processes for cognitive change. “A personal development element: engendered by the use of drama-based, interactive ingredients that promote individual insight and re-evaluation of attitudes and beliefs concerning families” and “an interactive element: generated through activation of processes of interpersonal dynamics shown to be vital in engagement and operative in structured groups and allied contexts”.
“He’s a different person now. He’s realised how his behaviour has affected us, his family. What he’s had from this course is what I’ve been fighting for all his life”. Supporter
Maintaining Family Relationships
Evidence suggests that maintaining family ties within prison reduces an offenders’ chance of reoffending by 39% (DfE 2009). Both programmes tackle the sensitive issues of families and parenting in a safe and constructive way to encourage family ties and contribute towards the rehabilitation agenda.
Our most recent independent evaluation (The Family Man Impact Study, 2011, Boswell Research Fellows and the University of East Anglia) detailed the programme’s sustainable impact on developing and maintaining stronger family ties, through a focus on focus on shared goal-setting underpinned by Desistance theory.
“A big, big change… The family comes first now. Before it was always himself…. I wonder if it’s the same man I married!” – Family Supporter
Our earlier evaluations assessed the skills that students gained during the course and how far this led to an immediate change in their attitude to families / parenting. More recently we have commissioned evaluations to assess the developments of the Family Man course, in particular the Family Support Worker role and the inclusion of supporters during the course. Evaluations found that these revisions have improved the programme and led to positive outcomes for the supporters and family. (Evaluation of impact of FI at HMP Ashwell, 2004, Boswell, Wedge and Price), (Evaluation of supporters’ participation in Family Man trials, June 2009, Price) and (Evaluation of effectiveness of Family Support Worker, August 2010, Boswell).
Evaluation of Supporters Participation, Price (2009) evaluated the impact of increased family involvement in the revised Family Man (FM) programme. She found that “the involvement of supporters in FM was found to be effective in encouraging and helping to maintain family and relationship links during imprisonment”.
“I understand now how my actions affect the whole family and I’m glad now that the tools I’ve learned can assist me on becoming a better person for my family in the future” - Student
In addition we have just completed a project with National Philanthropy Capital, an organisation which helps charities to demonstrate effectiveness. The trial involved the development of a family relationship scale at HMP Belmarsh which found that FM significantly improved the relationship between a student and his supporter (from the perspective of the supporter). We have identified the next steps to develop the scale so that the prisoners’ responses can be more accurately analysed. The full report is available to download here.
Safe Ground will shortly be commissioning a new 18 month evaluation of our programmes with a desistance-based focus on long-term outcomes, attitudinal shifts and impact on prison regimes.
Details will be posted here soon.