(not)parkrun
(not)parkrun
News - 16th November 2021

parkrun celebrates four year success of events on the custodial estate

PRISON

Every Saturday morning hundreds of people in prisons, young offender institutions, and correctional facilities are walking, jogging, running and volunteering as part of the global parkrun family.

 

Four years on from the launch of the very first custodial event, Black Combe parkrun at HMP Haverigg, we take a look at the phenomenal success of parkruns on the custodial estate and how the initiative continues to change the lives of prisoners, staff and visitors alike.

 

Since the ground-breaking first event took place in November 2017, 37 more parkruns have now been established on custodial estates in the UK, Australia and Ireland, with around 7,000 different people completing the 5k and almost 2,000 different people volunteering.

 

Wendy Limb, Head of Physical Education (PE) at Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service says “the parkrun partnership is a valuable addition to the physical activity we offer in the custodial environment and brings with it the links to the community which we know are so important in the reduction of re-offending. As with community events, ours were paused due to the pandemic. Fifteen are now back to delivering every Saturday and we are all working closely to support the return and growth of events when it is safe to do so”.

 

But it is the stories behind these numbers where the real impact is to be found.

 

In a handwritten letter to parkrun, a participant at HMP Buckley Hall wrote “the parkrun events are a place where anyone from any background, race, ability, or age can connect and feel part of a collective spirit. parkrun energises me every Saturday morning, walking and running with a good group of people gives me a sense of attachment to this nationwide event, for the rest of the day I feel like I’m part of something bigger”.

 

That sense of being on a level playing field with everyone else, and feeling supported and encouraged by their peers, was also something that another prisoner mentioned.

 

“Before I took my first strides, I thought people might laugh or ridicule me. But there was just a bunch of guys who recognised I was trying to better myself. I found encouragement, positivity and support. A fellow prisoner even told me he was proud of me for getting out there and having a go. That meant a lot.”

 

Pciture 2 CE

 

Of course, it’s not just about the walking, jogging and running. Like all parkruns, those on the custodial estate are delivered by volunteers, with support from physical education instructors and other prison staff. One custodial estate parkrunner said “volunteering at parkrun has been the most rewarding aspect for me – it’s humanising. And it’s infectious”.

 

Joanne Gray, who is Event Director at Keppel parkrun explains, how parkrun has had an incredible impact on one young person’s transition back into the community. “One of our young people had volunteered regularly at Keppel parkrun and was really proud to have earned his V25 t-shirt. At a recent college interview, he was asked about his volunteer role at parkrun and spoke confidently for 20 minutes about the skills he had learnt – he explained how he helped to ensure that all volunteers completed their roles effectively and was able to teach each role to new volunteers”

 

parkrun is also bringing loved ones closer together too, as they can participate in events in the community and know that their family member is doing it at the same time.

 

Custodial events create a structure and routine which can be aligned with families while individuals remain in custody and something they can continue on release together. “My sister and my young nephew both do parkrun where they live so it’s a nice way to connect with them. It feels normal to have something in common for us to talk about.”

 

Feltham parkrun Event Director, Michele Glassup told us, “parkrun allows me to be involved in a choice that is given to our young people rather than something that is a necessity of the regime. As a volunteer, the participants recognise I am there because I care and have an interest in them achieving their potential”.

 

This shows the positive impact that the event can have, not only on those in custody but also on their relationships with staff, and on staff wellbeing too.

 

Reducing reoffending is an important aim of the initiative, with parkrun providing a welcoming, non-judgemental, and positive community that can help support reintegration into society.

 

One participant who was on the start line of that first ever event at HMP Haverigg, credits parkrun for helping him carve out a new life outside of prison, he says “when you come out of prison, getting back on your feet is hard, especially financially. So, having something free, and regular, was amazing for me. I now have a full-time job and have been reunited with my son. I have a simple life which I am truly grateful for”.

 

As we celebrate four years of this amazing, life changing initiative we are excited about what the future holds. More custodial events, more people taking part and yet more evidence that parkrun is truly open to all.

 

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