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Professor Alison Liebling’s speech about therapeutic value of arts in prisons

Professor Alison Liebling’s presentation at the Sharing Good Vibrations event (back in October – it’s taken a while to get this on here!) was thoughtful and inspiring.  As well as an overview of various studies of arts in prisons (including Good Vibrations) she touched on the incredible power of music to touch and transform people.  She drew on the work of Antony Storr, whose book Music and the Mind, was instantly added to many in the audience’s “must-read” lists.  

As well as outlining the findings of the All Together Now study, in which her team looked at the therapeutic impact of Good Vibrations, Professor Liebling also touched on other studies: the evaluation of the Inspiring Change arts in prisons programme in Scotland, and Shadd Maruna’s evaluation of the Changing Tunes programme.  

Professor Liebling ended her presentation (as did Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons, Nick Hardwick, speaking at the same event) by sounding a note of warning about the dangers of evaluating music (and other arts) projects in prisons soley by simple benchmarking or what is mostly easily measurable.  

Professor Liebling runs the Centre for Criminology and Criminal Justice at Cambridge University.  She is widely considered to be one of the country’s top criminologists.  Her work looks at: the moral quality of prison life, the work of prison officers, the management of difficult prisoners, suicide prevention in prisons, and values, practices and outcomes in prison management.