To read this content please select one of the options below:

“Homeliness, hope and humour” (H3) – ingredients for creating a therapeutic milieu in prisons

Ian Williams (Therapeutic Prison Department, HM Prison Dovegate, Uttoxeter, UK)
Gary Winship (School of Education, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK)

Therapeutic Communities: The International Journal of Therapeutic Communities

ISSN: 0964-1866

Article publication date: 9 April 2018




The purpose of this paper is to build a new theoretical framework for inscribing the constituents of therapeutic community (TC) practice in prisons and other secure psychiatric settings looking at three core element: homeliness, hope and humour.


The study is based on theory building, review of related literature, including research and policy, and synthesis from related funded research projects (Sociology of Health and Illness, Arts Humanities Research Council).


Home-as-method, and the concept of transitional home, highlights how a well-designed therapeutic environment looks and feels and can act as a base for effective rehabilitation. The TC aspires to offer a corrective new synthesis of home superseding the resident’s prior experience. A through-going definition of hope-as-method is outlined. It is argued that hope is co-constructed on the TC, and that there is a necessary challenge in gauging fluctuations in hope across time. Humour is a much overlooked idea but arguably an integral ingredient of healthy transactions between prisoners and staff. The particularities of humour present a challenge and an opportunity for harnessing the conditions when humour can flourish and conversely, the chain of events when mal humour damages community atmosphere.

Practical implications

H3 provides a new framework for reflecting on current TC practice, and also a model for developing novel ways of seeing, including the development of research and policy guidance. H3 also provides a philosophical base for developing a curriculum for education and training.


The 3Hs offers a rubric for positively narrating the aspirations of a prison milieu. The idea is purposively simple, and so far the authors have found that staff, prisoners and service directors are receptive to the concept, and there are plans for the 3Hs are set to be a narrative descriptor for developing practice in prisons.



A version of this paper was presented as a keynote at a conference: “TCs, EE’s Prisons: Mechanisms of Hope”. HMP Grendon Underwood (23 September 2016). The authors would like to thank Nick Manning, Lyn Froggett, Les Back, Alistair Roy, Helen Spandler, Jenelle Clarke, Rex Haigh, Neil Chadbourn, Jonathon Coope, Simon Clarke, Paul Crawford, Brian Brown, Alex Barker, Julie Gosling, Peter Rutherford, Julia Rogers (who suggested the idea of H to the power of 3), Kirk Turner (who referred to the idea of 3Hs as “ingredients”), and Wyn Jones.


Williams, I. and Winship, G. (2018), "“Homeliness, hope and humour” (H3) – ingredients for creating a therapeutic milieu in prisons", Therapeutic Communities: The International Journal of Therapeutic Communities, Vol. 39 No. 1, pp. 4-13.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles