Research Shows Positive Results for Prison Safety

Latest research on the Challenge to Change programme has shown promising results for improving prison safety and reducing the likelihood of reoffending.

Prisoner wearing a Kainos challenge to change 'mentor' t-shirt) standing next to another prisoner in standard prison clothes. Both faces are obscured to protect their identity.The research was undertaken by Tom Ellis, Colm Ellis-Nee and Chris Lewis, CGL Bosham Ltd, November 2016 (1) and is the latest in a series of evaluation projects measuring the success of Challenge to Change.

The latest research builds on previous research by the Criminal Justice Unit at the University of Portsmouth which was overseen by Professor Sir Tony Bottoms, Cambridge 2000-2004 and Professor Chris Lewis CBE, Portsmouth 2004-2011 (2).

Evaluations of the programme, from 2016 and previous research in 2012, showed that:


  • The frequency of proven reoffending after one year for Kainos graduates was significantly lower than for the comparison group
  • The frequency of court convictions and cautions after one year for Kainos graduates was significantly lower than for the comparison group
  • The one-year reoffending rate for the Kainos group was 18.5% compared with the reoffending rate for the matched comparison non-Kainos group of 23.5%. (The comparable national rate for released prisoners is approximately 26%).

Encouragingly, the number of adjudications (issued when prisoners break prison rules) more than halved for those on the Challenge to Change programme.

These are positive results against the backdrop of a prison system which has seen increasing levels of violence, self-harm and suicide in recent years. Serious assaults have more than doubled in the three years up to June 2016 and sexual assaults have more than doubled since 2011.

Challenge to Change incorporates cognitive behaviour therapy within a ‘therapeutic community’ environment, taking over a whole prison wing where participants live 24/7 for six months.

The intense focus on addressing attitudes, thinking and behaviour is key to its success, as is the community aspect of the programme, where participants are jointly responsible for community behaviour.

One participant said: “Constructive criticism and regular feedback had a major influence on my improved behaviour and attitude.”

The programme is currently running in HMP Haverigg and has previously run in a number of prisons including HMP the Verne, HMP Stocken, HMP Guys Marsh and HMP Ranby.

(1) ‘The Effectiveness of the Kainos Programme Challenge to Change Final Report’ 2016; Ellis. T, Ellis-Nee.C, Lewis.C.

(2) Kainos Community Reoffending Evaluation: 3rd Evaluation – 1 August 2012 Tom Ellis, available here.