JOURNALIST Lucy Mansfield produced a fascinating report for The Guardian investigating the impact of table tennis in a prison, and found significant benefits.
The article looks at the ability of sport-based activity to recidivism, reducing reoffending, inside and outside of prison, and studied the work of HMP High Down in Surrey in partnership with coaches and volunteers from Brighton Table Tennis Club. The headline figure was that violent behaviour fell by 83% among attendees. So far, 250 prisoners have come through the programme in two years, and 24 have earned Level 1 UKCC coaching qualifications, giving them a new route to employment and community involvement outside – and there is a waiting list in the prison to sign up.
“There’s a lot of eye contact,” one prisoner explains. “You have to remain focused because it’s a quick game. So I would say it’s an escape for prisoners.”
Table tennis has long been popular in venues with limited space, but in many parts of Scotland the tables have been removed. The Observatory for Sport in Scotland is looking to research this area. We plan to use table tennis in different kinds of institutions around Scotland – prisons, police stations, hospitals and health centres have been suggested – and study whether it helps to improve the physical and mental health of staff as well as inmates, patients and visitors. We are also in talks with a global fitness provider interested in providing fitness equipment and classes in similar institutions, and how we might research their value. We would like to hear from anyone with views on this subject and who might be interested in a research project.
To learn more about the success in HMP High Down, read Lucy’s insightful article here. You can follow Lucy at @LuceMansfield.