To improve young people’s confidence, communication skills and loci of control by helping teams of ten of them to collaboratively write a novel in five days.
Engagement with education can significantly reduce reoffending (Machin et al., 2010; Davis et al., 2013; Wilson et al., 2000). In fact, the one-year reoffending rate was 34% for prisoner learners, compared to 43% for those who did not engage in learning during their sentence (Ministry of Justice and Department for Education, 2017) and this pattern was even clearer among those at a higher risk of re-offending (Clark, 2001). Education can have a positive role in breaking the reoffending cycle as it can equip people with new skills which may help them to get a job upon release and create a new lifestyle. This is particularly important as the reading ability of around 50% of prisoners was lower than that of the average 11-year-old and the equivalent figure for writing was 80% (Prison Reform Trust, 2010). Having poor literacy and numeracy skills has been found to directly increase the risk of offending (Basic Skills Agency, 2002). Education also has a role to play in enhancing self-efficacy and self-concept. However, the quality of teaching and learning in prisons has declined, with just 42% of prisons being rated as ‘good’ or better by inspectors in 2017–18, down from 50% the year before (IBID). There have also been declines of around 12% in the last year in numbers of people engaging in learning while in prison (Skills Funding Agency, 2017).
So, we need to look at to look at how prison education is being delivered and how to encourage learners to engage. We need projects that are ‘sneakily’ educational - that deliver the upskilling while ostensibly being about something else.
We’re going to go into young offenders facilities and write some books. Teams of ten young people will work with us for a week and between them they’ll write a novel.
_Plus How does your process work? (200 words version)
Our writing camps have been studied by academics since 2014 - a listing of the research is available at https://www.whitewaterwriters.com/research (our prison-focused papers are in preparation)
The summary is that, for all groups studied, the were significant (p<0.05) positive change in writer’s self evaluation of their understanding of how to write a novel, their ability to work under pressure, their ability to communicate their ideas both in writing and verbally, working in a team, and giving and receiving constructive feedback. Similar increases were recorded in writers’ Locus of Control (how much the writers felt they were in charge of their future, as opposed to being controlled by outside events), and in how they felt about intelligence: after the camp, writers were much more likely to believe that people’s intelligence could change over time.
Our key outcome is to reduce reoffending by:
for all our participating writers.
Here are five novels we’ve written in teams in B and C class prisons (HMP Liverpool and HMP Hindly)
We have also worked directly with young offenders at Werrington YOI for other books, worked with groups of young people in care and at risk of offending, and many groups of children who are not in lessons due to disciplinary action.
Here’s how much it costs to produce a book in different circumstances:
|Cost of printing books||£197||£394||£197|
|Remote support staff||£350||£350||£350|
A = 10 writers in one secure venue including long distance transport B = 20 writers in one secure venue including long distance transport C = 10 writers in one secure venue, delivered by venue’s own staff.
(Full costing is at https://equalitytime.co.uk/6417/2020/03/02/ )
Obviously it’s most economical for us to (for free) train organisation staff (during larger camps) who will then deliver (this is happening at HMP Liverpool), but circumstances differ in every unit and we need to be flexible. We plan to deliver 8 camps in the first year and 16, more ecomically, in the second.
The lead on this project will be eQuality Time COO, Dr Joseph Reddington. He designed the writing process that we use to produce the novels. He will be supervised by the eQuality Time trustees - particularly the Treasurer, Chair, and board member Francesca Baker for financial, personally and creative issues respectively.
Project management will include formal, minuted, review meetings between Dr Reddington and the eQuality Time trustees. Formal review meetings will be scheduled at the end of each month, with written reviews of progress at the end of each three-month period. These meetings and reports will each evaluate the status of the project against its indicators and relevant changes will be made where necessary. The written reports will be shared publicly and all writers and staff will be made aware of them.
Finances will be similarly open - all trustees have full access to our accounting platform, and payments require two signatories.
By training secure unit staff to deliver the project without us. This happens at HMP Liverpool and in several schools.