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

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Our Impact

“Safe Ground has an outstanding and independently-verified track record of reaching the angry young men who both commit crime and are victims of crime. Its ‘Man Up’ and ‘Fathers Inside’ programmes challenge those in both the adult and the youth estate to develop a greater self-awareness and resilience that will lead them to change the entrenched patterns of their lives.” – The Longford Trust

How do we know the programmes work?

Our programmes are all designed to create opportunities for learners to develop self awareness, communication and relationship skills and ways of coping with life’s complexities. We use a range of evaluation and measurement tools to capture what is possible – usually the concrete outcomes listed below. Demonstrating the kinds of impact we are known to share with many of our colleague arts organisations such as National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance; is much more difficult. We maintain relationships with alumni members and have a wealth of qualitative impact studies all of which clearly record the importance of the relational approach we take to our work; how trust, empathy, engagement and ‘unconditional positive regard’ (Rogers, 1951) combine to generate space for change.

Justice Data Lab Analysis

Safe Ground was delighted to receive our 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.

“Safe Ground aims to create a sustainable performance that can be carried around with the men after the intervention is over – it looks to create real attitudinal change in the men” – Jennifer Anne Sloan, 2016

Evaluating the Man Up Programme in Youth Offending Teams

In 2017 an evaluation of Man Up in Youth Offending Teams was undertaken by Dr Nicholas Blagden and Christian Perrin. It found that there was a pre/post course reduction in ‘toughness’ and increase in self-esteem and risk-taking perceptions. There were four themes found; ‘Reconstructing masculine self’, ‘Self-realisation, awareness and reflection’, ‘Group dynamics and course relationships’ and ‘unintended consequences’.

Maintaining Family Relationships

Evidence suggests that maintaining family ties within prison is important for those in prison (Lord Farmer, 2017). 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.

ICPR Report

One of our independent evaluations (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 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

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.

Reducing reoffending

Safe Ground has long championed better access to statutory reoffending data, and since 2012 have been a member of the MoJ Justice Data Lab Expert Panel.

Family Man was the subject of five Justice Data Lab studies,  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.

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.

External publications and recognition

Safe Ground has been acknowledged for our work with male prisoners in Grayson Perry’s “The Descent of Man” and Jennifer Anne Sloan’s “Masculinities and the Adult Male Prison Experience”. Grayson Perry discusses how our Man-Up programme helps offenders to withstand the stereotypes men face which can result in violence. A first-hand experience from a tutor at HMP Pentonville describes how in the group space provided by the programme, one participant felt that they could be themselves, and take their ‘mask’ off.

Jennifer Anne Sloan adds that Safe Ground is one organisation which “does engage directly with masculinity and men in prison”, whereby the Man Up programme aims to bring the men an element of control back to their lives, with evidence from evaluations showing the profound impact the programme has on participants.

Our programmes have also featured as case studies in a number of good practice reports by Policis, the Fatherhood Institute, Prisoners Education Trust, and the Family Strategic Partnership,

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