1. ITV Report

Prison pen pal scheme aids the rehabilitation of convicted offenders

The Law School's Criminal Justice Centre found that the prisoner pen pal scheme aids the rehabilitation of convicted offenders. Photo: Peter Kneffel/DPA/Press Association Images

The prison pen pal scheme 'Prisoners' Penfriends', lead by Professor Jacqueline Hodgson, has had an important role to play in helping to rehabilitate convicted offenders.

The findings are a result of research carried out by the Law School's Criminal Justice Centre.

Prisoners have claimed that the scheme makes them feel much less isolated, encourages them to make changes to their self-identity and provides a distraction which boosts their happiness.

As a result of being 'accepted' by their penfriend, prisoners experience friendship with someone outside their criminal contacts and come to see themselves as more than just a prisoner. They feel less stigmatised and like a more normal human being."

– Professor Jacqueline Hodgson

Volunteers who are involved in the scheme came from a wide variety of backgrounds and geographical areas and are typically well-educated females over the age of 50 years.

Prisoners told us about growing feelings of engagement with 'the outside world' and acceptance by 'normal people'.

"Regular and frequent letters provide a distraction from the routine of prison life, as well as giving prisoners the opportunity to reflect on their experience and express themselves.

"Letters from their penfriends made them happy."

– Volunteers

Prisoners who participated in the scheme are typically male, serving long or indeterminate sentences and many have little or no contact with anyone else outside of prison.

The Criminal Justice Centre at the University of Warwick is set to build on this research by hosting an event in November for social science researchers, activists, ex-prisoners and policymakers, which will examine the experience of punishment.

The research will also be presented to the House of Lords on June 25.