Prisons reform with Lady Edwina Grosvenor

February 2018

In September 2017, the Rumi Foundation, announced a collaboration with One Small Thing, the prison reform organisation set up by Lady Edwina Grosvenor. Together, we commissioned Heatherwick Studios to conduct a four month piece of work. Building on One Small Thing’s work with women’s centres across the country, the team set about finding a more effective alternative to prison.

Our criminal justice system is failing. Many of those who are convicted re-offend within just a year of being released. Amongst women, the re-conviction rate within a year is 61%. Prison must of course serve as a deterrent against committing crimes. However, it must also re-educate offenders, and prepare them for a successful life away from jail.

The Clink Charity

Lady Edwina set up The Clink Charity which aims to cut re-offending rates by re-educating prisoners and equipping them with the skills and formal qualifications they need to succeed after release. The first Clink restaurant, at HMP High Down, opened its doors in 2009. The restaurant gave offenders training in food preparation, food service and customer service, as well as the chance to obtain formal qualifications. The restaurant was a success, leading to a 41% reduction in re-offending. The Clink now has four restaurants across the UK, and the Rumi Foundation is a proud supporter of its work.

One Small Thing

One Small Thing seeks to raise awareness of how compassion, respect and understanding can help women break the cycle of re-offending. The traumatic pasts faced by so many women in the criminal justice system still affects their behaviour today. One Small Thing runs training sessions for people working in women’s prisons and in women’s community service providers. This ‘trauma-informed’ approach helps provides a greater understanding of the behaviours that often occur from a history of trauma.

Re-imaginging prison

Thanks to the funding provided, the team at Heatherwick were able to conduct in-depth research into why the prison system is failing. A wide-range of stakeholders were engaged including charitable organisations, magistrates, prison governors, judges and the police. They looked at a number of variables, including the language used around prisons, the architecture of offending institutes and why women offend in the first place. One Small Thing is now using this research to find potential locations for a residential centre for women’s rehabilitation within the wider community.