Evaluating a rugby sport intervention programme for young offenders

Date02 February 2015
Published date02 February 2015
AuthorDave Williams,Leann Collingwood,James Coles,Stefanie Schmeer
Subject MatterHealth & social care,Criminology & forensic psychology,Criminal psychology
Evaluating a rugby sport intervention
programme for young offenders
Dave Williams, Leann Collingwood, James Coles and Stefanie Schmeer
Dr Dave Williams is a Senior
Lecturer in Forensic
Psychology, Leann
Collingwood is a Teacher of
English and Psychology, both
are based at School of Life and
Medical Sciences, University of
Hertfordshire, Hatfield, UK.
James Coles is based at
Saracens Sport Foundation,
Saracens Rugby Club,
Hendon, UK.
Dr Stefanie Schmeer is a
Principal Lecturer, based at
School of Life and Medical
Sciences, University of
Hertfordshire, Hatfield, UK.
Purpose – Interventions intended to aid offender re-entry, rehabilitation and desistence based around
specific sports and championed by sporting institutions have been introduced in custodial settings. Though
research evaluating these is positive (Meek, 2012), conclusions are often hampered by the absence
of control groups in such work. The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the Saracens Get Onside
rugby-based intervention at HMP YOI Feltham, while employing a non-randomised control group.
Design/methodology/approach – In total, 24 young offenders took part. Those in the treatment condition
experienced a ten-week course which included a range of activities leading to accredited awards, exercises
in functional skills in literacy/numeracy and 72 hours of rugby sessions. Those in the control condition
were matched on key static factors, crime attitudes and aggression. Self-reported measures of pro-crime
attitudes, aggression, self-esteem, and impulsivity were taken once before the start, once during, and at the
end of the course for both groups.
Findings – As predicted, self-reported scores measuring attitudes towards aggression and crime did differ
significantly across groups, with those experiencing the intervention showing more positive values by the
end of treatment compared with others. However, measures of impulsiveness and self-esteem showed
no change.
Research limitations/implications – Revisions are suggested in respect of both the self-esteem
and impulsivity measures, and future work needs better control over the match between treatment and
comparison groups.
Originality/value – Concerns over the potentially iatrogenic effects of contact sport interventions with
offender groups may be misplaced, and the benefits of sporting interventions are replicated in a between
groups design.
Keywords Prison, Treatment, Offenders, Sports, Intervention, Young
Paper type Research paper
A growing body of research now attests to the part that sport and physical activity may have in
encouraging pro-social attitudes and behaviour in young people at risk of offending (Meek,
2014). Of course, simply engaging in any constructive activity is diversionary in the sense that it
usually removes the individual from those situations, peer contacts, and routines that are
associated with offending or anti-social behaviour (e.g. Felson, 2000; Crabbe, 2006). Beyond
this, Sandford et al. (2008) discuss some of the ways in which sport might actually lead to
increased social responsibility and decreases in offending behaviour and criminogenic factors.
There are the obvious benefits in terms of physical health (Meek and Lewis, 2012), but it may
also enhance an individual’s confidence, self-esteem, and mental health generally (Ekeland
et al., 2005). It may encourage altruistic attitudes and a sense of social responsibility (Coalter,
2005). It may satisfy the need for excitement and risk that would otherwise find expression in
less constructive ways (Smith and Waddington, 2004). It may encourage interpersonal
collaboration and cooperation (team work). It may promote social and moral responsibility and
provide a framework within which discipline can be valued, and self-discipline may develop
This research would not have been
possible without the kind
assistance of Glyn Smith and Juan
Mouton, P.EInstructor and “Get on
Side” Coordinator HMPYOI
Feltham, and all the participants
that helped.
DOI 10.1108/JCP-05-2014-0008 VOL. 5 NO. 1 2015, pp. 51-64, CEmerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 2009-3829

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