Arts and cultural activities have a long tradition of successfully empowering people in the criminal justice system to turn their lives around. Evidence indicates that the arts can support the process of desistance from crime. Research shows creativity in criminal justice settings can support improved wellbeing, awaken an interest in learning and can help people build positive new identities. Engaging in the arts can also lead to new skills and employment opportunities, as well as equipping participants with a desire to actively engage in their community and culture.
Fostering empathy, building family connections and playing a role in restorative justice, arts in criminal justice settings have also been found to improve safety and wellbeing in prisons and can play a role in building safer communities. The Justice Data lab found that simply providing access to arts and craft materials in cells, can have a positive impact on reoffending rates.
Arts interventions in criminal justice settings face numerous challenges - from a difficult funding climate to operational challenges and public misconceptions - but there is clear evidence, and growing recognition, that access to the arts provides a springboard to positive change.
Clinks’ National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance represents a network of over 900 individuals and organisations who deliver creative interventions to support people in prison, on probation and in the community, with impressive results.
Our Directory of Services holds information on a range of arts organisations, as does the National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance.
Read Clinks case studies showcasing the innovative work of our members using arts in the criminal justice system.
Clinks thinks the Ministry of Justice, commissioners and all service providers should ensure access to arts activities for people involved in the criminal justice system. To this end, the Ministry of Justice and the Arts Council should develop a joint strategy to support the arts within criminal justice settings.
What Clinks is doing
The National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance
The National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance (NCJAA) is embedded in Clinks. It aims to ensure the arts are used within the criminal justice system as a springboard for positive change. It supports this transformative work by providing a network, and voice, for the people committed to making great art across prison, probation and community settings.
The NCJAA delivers work in five main areas:
- Promoting arts organisations
- Building the evidence base for arts in the criminal justice system
- Supporting and informing policy
- Practice development
- Developing audiences.
This is delivered through online platforms and resources, news and events and by building relationships and networks with policy makers and commissioners.
The NCJAA conducts and commissions research to highlight the impact of the arts in the criminal justice system. The Evidence Library, an award-winning resource for professionals, academics and others working in the criminal justice system, currently hosts over 100 key research and evaluation documents on the impact of arts based projects.
Policy and influencing
The NCJAA acts as a conduit between artists and organisations and local and national policy makers who set priorities relating to the arts and criminal justice. One mechanism for this is the Arts Forum, a tri-annual meeting, chaired by the Ministry of Justice.
Raising the profile of arts in criminal justice
The NCJAA works hard to share the work of its network via a range of communications, including a monthly newsletter - which shares news, events, opportunities and recent publications - and via Twitter, blog and case studies. If you would like to share your work, please contact Rhiannon Fuller.
Promoting good practice
The NCJAA wants to encourage and promote excellence within arts and criminal justice, and aim for this to be threaded through all of their work. To address this, they run a professional mentoring scheme, publish guidance and hold training events. The Evidence Library enables members and commissioners to assess the impact of arts programmes within a range of criminal justice settings.
The NCJAA also holds events throughout the year to bring together a range of stakeholders including governors, prison staff, Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service staff, policy makers from the Ministry of Justice, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and Arts Council England, along with other arts and culture organisations.
Professional mentoring scheme
The professional mentoring scheme expands opportunities for practitioners to develop professional skills and knowledge in the field of arts and criminal justice through a one-to-one mentoring relationship. Expert mentors working in the arts and the criminal justice system provide a range of support about using arts within the criminal justice system to their mentee.
Join the National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance
If you use the arts in criminal justice then why not join the NCJAA for free? Subscribing to the network keeps you engaged with the sector and enables you to learn about new opportunities, policy and projects, enjoy marketing and networking opportunities, join in with blog posts and case studies and influence how the NCJAA does its work.
Keep in touch
Get the latest news, events and opportunities from the arts and criminal justice system in the NCJAA’s monthly newsletter.
Update on funding for the criminal justice voluntary sector
Letter from Amy Rees Chief Executive HMPPS dated 28 March 2023
In November Clinks began receiving fe
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We have published our annual report and financial statements 2021-22. The report sets out our activities, achievements this year and plans for future work towards our strategic goals. Read the full report here: https://bit.ly/3iMbdX7
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Other sources of support
The National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance website
Guidance for artists, arts organisations and cultural institutions working in criminal justice settings
Why do arts in criminal justice matter? A film making the case for arts in criminal justice.
Positive action to recruit people with criminal records. A briefing for arts, media and cultural organisations.
What does success look like for arts in criminal justice settings? A paper highlighting key messages and next steps.