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Sports in Prison, a Plan for the Future

Project summary

Although more than 1 500 000 people are imprisoned throughout Europe, these people are at risk of being socially excluded within society. We believe that prisoners are more than their criminal record. They are human and are part of society, they are citizens. Several international legislations articulate that prisoners may not be excluded from the normal services provided to society. They lose their freedom, but they retain all their other rights, including the right to have access to sport and physical activities. Academic research emphasizes that sport and physical activities contribute to a better physical and mental health. But there is another argument to organize sports activities in prisons: it is a step in the direction of social integration. By developing sport programs with a social impact and a connection with society or the ‘outside world’, prisoners will find the mental oxygen to restore faith in themselves and in others. They can work on a positive self-image and a valuable identity perception, for example by developing their talents or strengthening their relationships with others. Scientific research shows that sport can have a positive effect on the building of character. SPPF will offer prisoners a perspective to be socially active, it is an opportunity to form friendships, to work out networks and to battle social isolation.  

The ultimate goal of the SPPF project is to develop a European toolkit about the importance of good sport programs and the connection with the ‘outside world’, as well as formulating policy recommendations about this topic. To this end, the SPPF consortium will develop, test and implement learning areas in 5 European countries. These learning areas will be based on scientific and valid research. Using process and product evaluations, these innovative learning areas will be scientifically investigated in order to develop a toolkit and formulate policy recommendations for governments, prison directions and all stakeholders to set up good and sustainable practices on a local level within a European context.

Project outputs

Schaillée, H., Derom, I., & Theeboom, M. (2021, April 13). Sport in Prison - A plan for the future (SPPF). Presentation at the European Prison Regime Forum Webinar. Organized online by the European Organisation of Prison and Correctional Services. 

Schaillée, H., Derom, I., & Theeboom, M. (2021). State of play in prisons across Europe: Identification of sports-based activities. Brussel: Vrije Universiteit Brussel - Research group Sport & Society. 

Schaillée, H., Derom, I., & Theeboom, M. (2021). Sport in de gevangenis: Een sleutel tot succes voor het leven na detentie? Sport & Strategie, 8(4), 18-19. 

Presentation at the Europris webinar in 2021

Partners :

De Rode Antraciet (coordinator) 

VUB (research groups Sport and Society / PArticipation and Learning in Detention) 

UISP (Unione Italiana Sport per Tutti) (Italy) 

UPSDA (Sdrujenie Obedineni profesionalisti za ustoichivo razvitie) (Bulgaria) 

DJI (Dienst Justitiële Inrichtingen) (The Netherlands) 

ACSW (Udruga za kreativni socijalni rad) (Croatia) 

Period :

01/01/2019 – 31/12/2022 

Funded by :

European Commission: Erasmus+ sport (collaborative partnership)

Research team :

Marc Theeboom, Inge Derom, Hebe Schaillée, Dorien Brosens & Aline Van Roey