ERG SES G 08, Sociologies of Education
The prison is a disciplinary and comprehensive apparatus (Foucalt, 1977) that controls all individual aspects and disciplines prisoners in their habits and customs. It is in many ways a self-contained social system, a “society” following its own tempo and dynamics (Skyes, 1858) that educates the body and the mind through a system that contains individuals: prison teaches individuals to unlearn and to be passive; everything is scheduled, the whole day is programmed and, in many cases, there is not a guarantee for a safety place where to spent years and receive specific rehabilitative programmes.
Inmates spend the majority of their days indoors in conditions of relatively close confinement. By its nature, imprisonment can have a damaging effect on both the physical and mental wellbeing of inmates. In addition, they often come from the poorest sections of society and they may arrive in prison with pre-existing health problems which may have been caused by neglect, abuse or by their previous lifestyle (Maculan, Ronco & Vianello, 2013).
Contrasting inactivity and promoting well-being is, thus, usually the first reason given when encouraging sports-based programs within the prison population. From a general point of view regular physical activity is widely advocated to have a beneficial impact on mental health and well-being of individuals (Lancet, 2016), and evidence from systematic reviews demonstrates the positive effect of physical activity on mental well-being (Arent, Landers & Etnier, 2000). Based on this assumption, the use of sport in prison is grounded in the supposition that physical activity should be integral to and integrated into all aspects of the prison regime assuming that the education of the body has a significant role to play in the daily life of the prisoners as well as significant consequences for resettlement on release.
In this light, the implementation of sport-based programs within the prison population is wide-reaching and their use as part of the education and rehabilitation of the inmates is widely accepted. However, studies examining the impact of such a kind of interventions in the specific social context of a prison have been described as limited (Meek and Lewis, 2014), embryonic (Gallant et al., 2015) and weak (Woods, Breslina & Hassan, 2017). Therefore, the primary purpose of this paper is to analysis a sport-based intervention on the psychological well-being of the prisoners living in the prison of Cassino (Italy). The study has in particular three aims and two hypotheses:
1. To determine the impact of the program on prisons’ personal development, emotional health, resilience, social inclusion, peer relationships and other ‘life skills’. 2. To determine the impact of the program on social cohesion in prison community. 3. To investigate issues arising from the implementation of the program.
1. Participants in the program will have significantly better emotional health, peer relationships and feelings of social inclusion if compared with those who do not participate at all or who only participate minimally in the program;
2. The program will contribute to the education and rehabilitation process of the prisoners.
The program was implemented twice a week for twelve months and used sport as part of a broader multi- component intervention, using additional educational or counselling components (Coalter, 2007). There were three areas of focus: Football activities, including regular tournaments; capacity building, with the provision of courses and workshops focusing on coaching and refereeing, mentoring and life-skills, leadership, and volunteering; building linkages, between the community of the prison and the community sport system.
The study design involved the use of the “most significant change” method (MSC) (Dart & Davies, 2003). It was based on a qualitative, participatory approach, with all the main stakeholders (prisoners, prison’s staff, coaches and volunteers) involved in all aspects of the evaluation process. In line with the methods, the data came from narrated stories and the beneficiaries had the opportunity to express how they experienced the impact of change generated by the participation in the program. These stories were analysed by a Panel of program implementers and policy and management stakeholders (McDonald, Bammer, & Deane, 2009). Twenty beneficiaries of the program (n=65) were purposely selected in order to set a sample that was representative of the group of beneficiaries in terms of: nationality, age, length of detention, and length of sentence. In addition, ten members of the prison’s staff were involved in the process along with three coaches and six volunteers supporting the program. The stories were collected periodically through interviews administered by two researchers: they were conceived as a means to elicit participants’ experiences and gather information about their personal narratives, emotions and social interactions. During the interview, the interviewers took notes and read back the story to the participants in order to verify if any points were misunderstood or missed. Interviews were recorded on a voice recorder to capture verbatim and the changes expressed by the narrators’ own words. Policy stakeholders, program implementers and prison’s staff were askes to for the MSC story selection panel. There were: the deputy Mayor of the City of Cassino, the Prisoner Protection Commissioner, the president of the Italian National Olympic Committee, the Head of the Education and Rehabilitation Section of the Prison of Cassino, the Principal Investigator and the Senior Research Associate of the study. A further level of data collection was implemented through three focus groups with prison staff (n=3), coaches (n=3) and volunteers (n=4). The analysis of all data follows a deductive-inductive approach (Dey, 1993). A-priori categories of analysis were derived from the theoretical framework and from the revision of the literature carried out in the preparation of the study. During the analysis of data, these categories were revised and new categories were also inducted with an open coding approach. The content analysis was grounded on the final set of categories and carried out with the support of the text management program known as QDA Miner.
It appeared that the majority of beneficiaries felt the most significant change was the perception of a better level of health and fitness. Specific themes associated this aspects were: reducing health risks, increasing general physical fitness, reduction in depression, anxiety, stress and hopelessness – especially for those inmates with a long duration of the sentence. Changes related to the rehabilitative process were the development of pro-social identities and the opportunity to establish positive networks with individuals and organisations external to the prison in the view to have a good settlement on release. This aspect was in particular related to the capacity building component of the program which was also considered as an opportunity for a possible job as coach at the end of the detention. This can be partially linked with the concept of “desistance” from crime that refers to ‘‘a change in the person’s pattern of behaviour from involvement in crime to noninvolvement in crime’’ (Bushway, Thornberry, & Krohn, 2003, p. 130). A further change was related to a positive impact on the social interactions among inmates but this aspect was more difficult to clearly identify and explain due the difficulty in deconstructing and attributing a specific causality with the program. In fact, the majority of the beneficiaries were also involved in another program specifically focusing on the contrast of anti-social and aggressive behavior. However, this aspect reflects the fact that a combination of interventions that have a common framework and are guided by the same principles may improve the effectiveness of the education and rehabilitation program. Prison’s staff perceived that providing inmates with opportunities to participate in sport and recreation activities offers a positive aspect in an otherwise negative environment and gave them the opportunity o model appropriate social behaviour.
Arent, S., Landers, M., & Etnier, J. (2000). The effects of exercise on mood in older adults: A meta-analytic Review. Journal of Ageing and Physical Activity, 8, 407-430. Bushway, S. D., Thornberry, T. P., & Krohn, M. D. (2003). Desistance as a developmental process: A comparison of static and dynamic approaches. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 19(2), 129–153. Calloway, J. (1981). Correctional recreation today, Coalter, F. (2007). A wider social role for sport: who's keeping the score?. Routledge. Dart J., Davies R. (2003). A Dialogical, Story-Based Evaluation Tool: The Most Significant Change Technique. American Journal of Evaluation. 24 (2): 137–155. Dey, I. (1993). Qualitative data analysis. A user friendly guide for social scientists, London, Routledge. Foucault, M. (1977). Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, London, Pantheon books. Gallant, D., Sherry, E., & Nicholson, M. (2015). Recreation or rehabilitation? Managing sport for development programs with prison populations. Sport Management Review, 18(1), 45-56. Lancet (2016) Physical Activity 2016: Progress and Challenges Progress in physical activity over the Olympic quadrennium. 388:1326-36 Retrieved from http://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lancet/PIIS0140-6736(16)30581-5.pdf Maculan A., Ronco D. & Vianello F (2013). Prison in Europe: overview and trends. European Prison Observatory. Detention conditions in the European Union. McDonald, D., Bammer, G., Deane P. (2009). Research Integration Using Dialogue Methods. Canberra: ANU E-Press Meek, R., & Lewis, G.E. (2012). The role of sport in promoting prisoner health. International Journal of Prisoner Health, 8, 117–130. Skyes, G. M. (1958). The Society of Captives: A Study of a Maximum Security Prison, Virgina (USA), Atheneum. Woods, D., Breslin, G., Hassan, D. (2017). A systematic review of the impact of sport-based interventions on the psychological well-being of people in prison, Mental Health and Physical Activity.
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