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

Harriet Campana (HMPPS, Berkhamsted, UK)
Lisa Edmondson (Department of Psychology, HMP Humber, Hull, UK)
Claire Edghill (HMPPS, Berkhamsted, UK)
Tanya Crowther (HMPPS, Berkhamsted, UK)
Julie Aspin (HMPPS, Berkhamsted, UK)
Lauren Aspey (HMPPS, Berkhamsted, UK)
Rosie Meek (Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, UK)

Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice

ISSN: 2056-3841

Article publication date: 6 June 2023

Issue publication date: 24 November 2023




Parkruns are weekly, free, community-based, 5 km 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. The purpose of this paper is to consider 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. In addition, factors deemed important to desistance and promoting a rehabilitation culture were also found in the experiences of the sample.

Practical implications

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, the authors anticipate that their 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.


To the best of the authors’ knowledge, 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.



The authors would like to acknowledge the Physical Education staff in HMPPS for facilitating the research, parkrun for their support and direction, and both Martin Fisher and Dr Giles McCathie, both Registered Psychologists within HMPPS, for their helpful input.


Campana, H., Edmondson, L., Edghill, C., Crowther, T., Aspin, J., Aspey, L. and Meek, R. (2023), "Prisoners’ experiences of custodial parkrun in the UK: links to rehabilitation culture and desistance", Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice, Vol. 9 No. 3/4, pp. 163-176.



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