Physical activity a catalyst for change in the criminal justice system?

Wednesday 8th May 14:30 - 15:20

A growing evidence base from programmes delivered in custody builds a picture of the rehabilitative and positive values of sport and physical activity. Currently 40% of children re-offend within 12 months of their release, for those offenders taking part in sports based programmes, the reoffending rate is significantly reduced.

Supporting this evidence base Olympic Gold medallist Nicola Adams has spoken of boxing’s “almost unmatched capability to engage some of the most disaffected young people and help to combat a massive range of social problems, covering crime, educational underachievement, health and fitness and community cohesion”.

For many offenders, physical activity may not be the panacea – but if harnessed in the right way it can have transformative effects. Improved physical health and wellbeing, has an impact on mental health, self-discipline, reduces violence and reoffending, improves rehabilitation outcomes, and enhances life chances and prospects. Programmes can provide access to positive role models, mentors and team-mates, as well as opportunities to gain qualifications to develop a career in sport.

In 2018 “A Sporting Chance” the government’s independent review into the role of sport in the justice system, highlighted the role that sport and physical activity can play in rehabilitation and reducing reoffending and identified best practice from across the custodial estate – making recommendations for enhancing provision.

This session will explore how these positive affects can be translated into the custodial environment; how recommendations are being implemented; the challenges and opportunities associated with delivering interventions which meet offender’s needs; the necessary facilities, partnerships and workforce development required to achieve change and the evidence supporting new and innovative approaches.


Dr Zoe Williams, RCGP Clinical Champion Physical Activity and Public Health England Physical Activity Champion


Professor Rosie Meek, Professor of Criminological Psychology, School of Law at Royal Holloway University of London

Dr Phillip Lee MP, Former Justice Minister

Justin Coleman, Director of Operations and Secretariat at Alliance of Sport

Chrissie Wellington, Global Head of Health and Wellbeing at ParkRun