Shared Reading in Criminal Justice
For nearly a decade The Reader has been running Shared Reading groups in a range of settings within the Criminal Justice System including prisons, approved premises, high-security psychiatric hospitals, secure units and community justice initiatives. Within the prison estate, we work in categories A, B and C with men, women and young offenders. We have a contract with HM Prison and Probation Service to work, as part of the PD Pathway, in all Psychologically Informed Planned Environments (PIPEs) and in 2016 secured the contract to deliver Shared Reading sessions in all prisons in Northern Ireland.
“I’ve been in here for – it’ll be 28 years in 3 days. And to be honest, this is the best part of my week. This makes you feel human.”
Shared Reading group member, Cat. A prison
Informal weekly sessions provide the opportunity to listen, empathise and share reflections, giving offenders and ex-offenders new ways to tell their stories and move towards secondary desistance. The improved mental well-being and increased motivation for education which result from Shared Reading groups enable offenders to unlock their potential.
In line with the recommendations of Dame Sally Coates’ Review of Education in Prison, our work combines aspects of high quality creative arts provision and Personal and Social Development, providing opportunities for offenders to “improve self-knowledge, develop self- confidence and therefore help tackle reoffending.”
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In the supportive environment created by Shared Reading staff and offenders work together free from roles and expectations. Our work enables improvements in health and changes in behaviour which can underpin other health provisions and help tackle challenges such as substance abuse.
Shared Reading can contribute to the way in which prisons become places of reform, where offenders can change their lives and turn away from crime. Our packages can be tailored to suit the needs of different environments and include Reader staff-led delivery and training packages.
An Evaluation of a Pilot Study of a Literature-Based Intervention with Women in Prison
A study, carried out by the Centre for Research into Reading, Information and Linguistic Systems (CRILS) at the University of Liverpool, investigated the effect of Shared Reading on women in HMP Low Newton.