News - 7th August 2018

Springhill parkrun: The world’s first in an open prison


Springhill parkrun in Buckinghamshire became the third prison parkrun in the world, and the first to take place in an open prison, when it launched in June 2018. Amanda Burnham, Head of Security at HMP Springhill, tells us how the idea for a prison parkrun came about, and the impact it is already having after such a short time.


HMP Springhill is a Category D men’s prison that can hold up to 335 prisoners, who are serving both short and long sentences. It is an open prison that provides a resettlement function for prisoners who are nearing the end of their sentence. Springhill tries to reflect life in the community outside to prepare prisoners for release, which helps with their confidence, self-esteem and reintegration.


The idea for a parkrun at Springhill was initially conceived by the Deputy Governor, Matt Tilt, speaking with a member of the PE department, Mike Burnham. They both felt it would provide a great sense of community to Springhill.


The more it was talked about with staff, the more momentum the idea gathered. Many of the staff across the two prisons are keen fitness / sports people, and several are parkrunners. They believed parkrun would be a great addition, especially as staff would be able to partake. Springhill staff saw this as part of the enabling environment and culture that is being developed and that parkrun would certainly enhance and support this.


parkrun takes place on a Saturday morning as it does everywhere in the world and our event is now embedded into the physical education programme and a weekly activity. It encourages those who undertake sport to join in and also some who do not usually attend the gym have seen this as a way of doing something to benefit their health and wellbeing. As it is open to all prisoners and numbers are not limited it provides a great community atmosphere. parkrun has enabled prisoners to be part of a national free event, of which they can continue on release. They are doing something the country is doing whilst being in prison.


Springhill parkrun launched on 9 June. Both prisoners and staff arrived eager to set up the course in anticipation of the inaugural event, with a total of 27 people running, jogging and walking the course, supported by 13 volunteers. Springhill’s course is a varied route that takes you around the large sports field four times. The hill never looked like a hill until it was run!


There was also an opportunity for training to take place to develop skills for future weeks in a number of roles. Participants were invited to stay behind afterwards for refreshments and to swap stories on their own experiences. There was a great atmosphere, particularly thanks to the number of people who came out to provide support and encouragement from the sidelines.


There has been a lot of talk and buzz about Springhill parkrun from both prisoners and staff. Everyone has seen it as a positive opportunity and there is a real sense of pride at having our very own parkrun. For any other prison wishing to get involved, my advice would be to speak to your local parkrun Ambassadors or prisons that currently have a parkrun. The help and support offered by parkrun UK ensures the process is as simple and convenient as possible.


The support we received from the start, leading up to the event and on the day itself was great. The local volunteer Ambassadors were always helpful, provided all the equipment and training, and on the day helped to settle the nerves of those who needed it, which made for a great first parkrun event, and parkrun has continued to support us as everyone gets used to the process.


Amanda Burnham
Head of Security, HMP Springhill
parkrunner A4353739


You can read more about prison-based parkruns here.


Click here to read a letter from a former prisoner who was introduced to parkrun whilst in prison.

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