Prisoners’ experiences of custodial parkrun in the UK: links to rehabilitation culture and desistance

Harriet Campana, Lisa Edmondson, Claire Edghill, Tanya Crowther, Julie-Ann Aspin, Lauren Aspey, Rosie Meek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Parkruns are weekly, free, community based, 5km runs around open spaces, with a growing body of research indicating their social, physical, and psychological benefits. Thirty-one custodial establishments in England and Wales regularly offer parkruns.

This paper considers prisoners’ experiences of parkrun in custodial settings and these are discussed in the context of the evidence base regarding parkrun in the community and the wider literature on prison sport, desistance, and rehabilitation culture.

Using an inductive, qualitative approach, data was collected at three English prisons, via semi-structured interviews with 24 adult male prisoners who participated in parkrun. Data was subjected to thematic analysis.

In total, five themes reflecting positive experiences associated with custodial parkrun were identified: connection with others; healthy living; a safe and predictable exercise environment; a sense of purpose; and a re-humanising experience. Factors appearing frequently in the wider parkrun research are present in the perceptions of parkrunners in custody. Additionally, factors deemed important to desistance and promoting a rehabilitation culture were also found in the experiences of our sample.

The work emphasises the successes of His Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) and parkrun working in partnership to support custodial events. By highlighting the positive experiences of custodial parkrun on prisons and prisoners, we anticipate our findings may encourage further sites to consider launching parkrun events, and prompt existing sites to consider their events in line with efforts to promote desistance and a rehabilitation culture.

This is the first paper to explore custodial parkrun. The findings indicate that custodial parkrun supports HMPPS strategic goals by offering an opportunity for prisons to promote desistance.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jun 2023

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