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


Our Evidence Base

At Safe Ground we understand the importance of evaluation, and have committed to a rolling programme of independent research for both Family Man and Fathers Inside.

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.

Engaging with men in prison

“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

Safe Ground has recently 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.

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.

“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.

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.

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,  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.

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.”

Case studies

Our programmes have also 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.

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