Safe Ground - Using drama to educate prisoners and young people at risk in the community


Our Evidence Base

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.

Additionally, the programmes have featured as case studies in a number of good practice reports by Policis, the Fatherhood Institute, Prisoners Education Trust, the Family Strategic Partnership, the Centre for Social Justice and New Philanthropy Capital.

How do we know the programmes work?

Our programmes aim to address the complex needs of men in prison and the community and our evaluations demonstrate how we accomplish this.

Maintaining Family Relationships

Evidence suggests that maintaining family ties within prison reduces an offenders’ chance of reoffending by 39% (DfE 2009). Our 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

Safe Ground is also a steering group member of a consortium, including New Philanthropy Capital and the Institute for Criminal Policy Research, commissioned by NOMS to research, develop and pilot a toolkit to better measure intermediate outcomes for family relationship programmes delivered in criminal justice settings. We look forward to sharing the findings with you in summer 2014.

Justice Data Lab Analysis

Safe Ground is delighted to receive our latest Justice Data Lab report, for the first time including Fathers Inside for analysis. Safe Ground were the first organisation to offer data to the Justice Data Lab, which is a big risk for organisations, particularly of our size. This report clearly demonstrates the significant impact of Fathers Inside – only 24% of men who took the programme re-offended within a year of release, compared to 40% of their counterparts who did not take it.

We have great faith in the methodological integrity of our programmes and are very pleased to continually evaluate and interrogate our work. Alone, we do not believe the Justice Data Lab can offer any more definitive evidence than any other evaluative method. As part of a wide range of broader, incremental, quantitative and qualitative measures, however, we are delighted to add Justice Data Lab analysis to our repertoire. This report includes men across 9 different establishments, including HMP Parc (Family Intervention Unit), a drug rehabilitation wing in HMP Lewes (in partnership with the Crime Reduction Initiative), HMP The Mount, HMP Hewell and Category A prison HMP Whitemoor. Fathers Inside therefore is effective when analysed over a range of settings, with diverse populations.

In our 21st birthday year, to be able to demonstrate how Fathers Inside supports NOMS and education providers to effectively deliver against a range of outcomes, including re-offending, is important. We are delighted to be able to add this convincing official statistic to our evidence base and look forward to Fathers Inside and Family Man continuing to impact men and their families for many years to come. We are very grateful to all the participants in our programmes, the families and community workers that support our work and the Prison and Education delivery teams who work and train so diligently to ensure these high quality outcomes. This success is theirs.

To see the full report click here: Data Lab Report

Reducing Reoffending

Safe Ground has long championed better access to statutory reoffending data and since 2012 have been a member of the Ministry of Justice’s Justice Data Lab Expert Panel. Family Man was the subject of five Justice Data Lab studies, with both yielding highly promising results.

In our most recent study, as previous reports have demonstrated, Safe Ground has consistently achieved very positive indicative outcomes including statistical significance for reducing binary reoffending. As this report again highlights, despite us submitting 675 men for inclusion, only 184 were eligible for analysis, so we still have a very small sample size. Safe Ground appreciates and values the Data Lab’s contribution to our holistic approach to research and evaluation. This report forms a small part of our evidence base, the full extent of which can be found here.

In our third study, Family Man demonstrated a statistically significant reduction in frequency reoffending when compared to a matched control group. Family Man graduates returned a reoffending rate of 37% compared to a rate of 44% for the control group (88% confidence interval, n = 131)

In our first study of Family Man at HMP Wandsworth, where the course was delivered directly by Safe Ground, graduates returned a reoffending rate of 29% compared to a control group rate of 42% (90% confidence interval, n=35).

In the second study, featuring six Family Man sites across England and Wales, graduates returned a reoffending rate of 39% compared to a control group rate of 47% (88% confidence interval, n=83).

Although some issues with matching data have prevented the achievement of a ‘statistically significant’ binary reoffending result (a confidence interval of 95% or higher), we are confident that over time this will be achieved as we submit larger and larger samples for analysis.

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

We routinely collect data documenting the progression of our graduates onto further education, training and employment (ETE). Since 2007, over 93% of Family Man and Fathers Inside graduates have been engaged in further ETE one month after graduation compared to 69% before participating on the courses.


Our programmes are mapped to a number of nationally recognised 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 Gwyneth Boswell of Boswell Research Fellows 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.”


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