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Rehabilitative Prisons

Read on to find out more about our research on the potential and limitations of ‘rehabilitative’ prisons.

A residential unit in a Welsh prison
Can prisons rehabilitate? Image of HMP Berwyn by University of Bath

Members of the Centre for Prisons Research are exploring the theoretical, philosophical, sociological and empirical complexities of attempts to rehabilitate people in prison. Ultimately, we seek to answer the question: Can prisons be rehabilitative?

Project in focus: The Rehabilitative Prison

A staircase leading upwards inside a prison
Image by Noosh S-W

Several members of the Centre for Prisons Research are currently involved in a major three-year ESRC-funded project entitled: ‘The “Rehabilitation Prison”: An oxymoron or an opportunity to radically reform imprisonment?’ led by Dr Kate Gooch (PI) and Professor Yvonne Jewkes (Co-I).

Project website:

The inspiration and impetus for the project arose from the commitment of the initial senior management team to open HMP Berwyn as England and Wales’ first designated ‘rehabilitative prison’. Opening in February 2017, HMP Berwyn is a Category C prison with capacity to accommodate 2,106 men within three houses. Our project explores why and how the senior management team set out to create a rehabilitative prison, and what has happened since. In addition, the research project focuses on the extent to which you can develop a rehabilitative approach within two older, smaller but different prisons: HMP Guys Marsh (Category C) and HMP Leyhill (Category D).

Adopting a multi-method and Appreciative Inquiry (AI) approach, the project investigates the opportunities and barriers to creating rehabilitative prisons. The project will engage policymakers, practitioners, prison reform organisations and academics, through a series of workshops, knowledge exchange events, conferences and a photography exhibition. The project has also garnered public interest. To see an example, you can read this article published in the local media. The findings will be shared with the prisons’ senior management teams, key stakeholders within the Ministry of Justice and Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service, as well as more widely to global interested parties.

In 2020 Kate Gooch and Yvonne Jewkes published a book chapter on the rehabilitative potential of prisons. To find out more, read Gooch and Jewkes’ publication.