Politicians urged to lift ban on teaching boxing and martial arts in prison by independent expert

'Let's face it, fighting goes on in prisons regardless of whether this policy remains or not'

Chiara Giordano
Saturday 11 August 2018 16:34
Comments
'We are seeing prisoners remaining in their cells for sometimes 23 hours a day and basic physical activity and exercise is often not happening', Professor Rosie Meek told the Today programme
'We are seeing prisoners remaining in their cells for sometimes 23 hours a day and basic physical activity and exercise is often not happening', Professor Rosie Meek told the Today programme

Politicians should reconsider allowing boxing and martial arts to be taught in prison, an independent expert has urged.

Professor Rosie Meek, the author of a review into physical activity in jails, said the ban on boxing and martial arts-based activities in prison was a “wasted opportunity”.

However, the Ministry of Justice ruled it out as a possibility.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Professor Meek, of Royal Holloway University of London, said she regretted the decision to maintain the ban.

“We know from community settings that boxing and martial arts programmes can be incredibly powerful in engaging with some of our most disaffected young people, and it's a wasted opportunity not to be exploring how this can benefit our prisons,” she said.

“Let's face it, fighting goes on in prisons regardless of whether this policy remains or not.

“What we know from carefully-designed and well-delivered boxing-related programmes, using professionals, is that actually it has an incredibly powerful effect in terms of reducing violence and reducing conflict and helping people manage their aggression in a more positive way.”

“With the staff shortages that we are seeing, physical activity is often something which is abandoned,” she added.

“We are seeing prisoners remaining in their cells for sometimes 23 hours a day and basic physical activity and exercise is often not happening in the way the prison rules suggest it should.”

Professor Meek’s independent report, commissioned by the Ministry of Justice, reviewed the current provision of sport in prisons, young offenders' institutions and secure children's homes.

The chartered psychologist and prison researcher said the use of sport across prisons and youth custody was “inconsistent and underdeveloped”, with examples of good practice standing out because they were the exception.

The report found “positive sporting achievements” that had already taken place in the country’s prisons, but Ms Meek made 12 recommendations, including that the government should reconsider boxing and martial arts exercises.

The Ministry of Justice said in response to the report: “We acknowledge that there is a great deal of evidence about the way in which participation in boxing and martial arts programmes in the community can have positive outcomes for individuals, however there is currently limited evidence about how that translates into the custodial environment.

“In reconsidering any policy our priority must be the safety and security of the custodial environment and the wellbeing of staff, participants and other prisoners.

“We have no plans to make boxing or martial arts based activities permissible.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in