For the record: how an innovative project is reducing prison violence

Written by Civil Service World on 7 November 2018

By supporting a new record label run by and for prisoners, EY is involved in an innovative approach to reducing violence in prisons and driving down reoffending rates. InHouse Records was set up last year and has already achieved some remarkable results. CSW talks to Alex Deeming from EY about the scheme.

Tell us a bit about InHouse Records

InHouse Records is a prison record label that is the brainchild of Judah Armani, founder of Public, a social design practice. He designs solutions to try to address social problems and this project is a platform for learning and personal development for prisoners with the objective of supporting them through rehabilitation and the long term goal of reducing the reoffending rate.

The label started in HMP Elmley last year with a small group of prisoners and works by helping improve the skills and personal development of prisoners through music. As members of the record label they have the freedom and the choice to take on different roles, from musician to songwriter or artist manager.

InHouse Records is a community interest company that has been set up and driven by a social purpose of reducing violence in prisons, reducing reoffending and ultimately providing people with a path towards a future that doesn't involve crime.

At its heart, it is about using music as a vehicle for prisoners to develop and pursue their aspirations in a positive direction. The label records music that is played on National Prison Radio and prisoners also perform in showcases in prisons.

What is EY’s involvement with the project? 

EY partner Neil Sartorio is a long-standing backer of this initiative and at the start of this year I was given the opportunity to spend several months working with Judah Armani on a pro-bono basis, developing a business plan and investor proposition and developing dialogue with potential funders. EY is working with Public to support InHouse to become successful and sustainable.

It has evolved from the project I did to the current situation where four or five people from

EY is teaming with Public to support the scale-up of the delivery of InHouse Records in and out of prisons, towards achieving the desired impact of reducing reoffending.

What impact is InHouse Records having?

Since starting at HMP Elmley just over a year ago, the project is now being run in HMP Isis, HMP Lewes, HMP Rochester and HMP Standford Hill.

There have been really positive results in terms of what InHouse Records have done to improve behaviour and reduce violence in prison. There’s been a lot of uptake, in fact it’s been oversubscribed by 300%

Those who have been taking part have had an increase in positive entries on their case notes in prison and a decrease in negative entries. In addition, there have been 40% fewer cases of alleged offences against prison rules committed by prisoners, so that’s really positive.

What are the biggest challenges facing the project?

In terms of funding, prisons pay for the work that InHouse Records does with prisoners, but the label is not just an ‘in prison thing’, it also works to help offenders on release.

The out of prison element is where the big funding question is and that’s what we are addressing at the moment, trying to raise money to set up a regional support hub for members of InHouse Records on their release from prison. This will be in London, as the project is currently just in prisons in the South East.

Having this hub is absolutely vital to the success of the project because without support after release from prison people can fall back into the wrong situation. So one of the biggest challenges is making sure that we get this right. A wider challenge is how you go from being in five prisons to being in prisons across the country.

What are the next steps with InHouse Records?

We are hoping to have the regional hub set up in January next year. The plan is to have an InHouse Records pop-up. It would serve not only as a place where the former prisoners can come and continue to develop music and access personal support with pursuing employment but it will also be a means for them to interact with the public and customers with a record store element to it as well.

The idea behind the pop-up is that it starts to really tick the box of making sure you have that safe space for people to go when they do step out of prison. It’s a sustainable relationship - they continue with the support outside and that’s both their individual development and the opportunity to continue with their music and their role as they have done in prison with the label.

We are currently seeking funding for the hub, which will cost something approaching £100,000 to set up and run in the short term, and have been concentrating on getting social

grant funding. We have already raised some of the money needed and are now running a crowdfunding campaign to the end of the year.

The next question will be how we get the project to be financially sustainable. The ambition is for InHouse Records to operate programmes across the UK in the coming years, possibly through government funding.

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