Music education and experience in Scottish prisons

Kirstin Anderson

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Abstract / Description of output

This research presents the first empirical study of music provision in Scottish prisons and explores the potential benefits of music engagement for prisoners, with a focus on young offenders’ experience. The scope of the study begins with an investigation into music provision in prisons throughout Scotland by means of a small-scale survey. This survey showed that despite a lack of documentation, music is currently present in Scottish prisons and has been previously, albeit intermittently. Music provision included a range of activity: learning how to play musical instruments, singing, music theory, song-writing and composition. Subsequently, two music intervention studies were conducted with young offenders at HM Young Offenders Institution Polmont. The first study was a ten-week project with three participant groups: a music group, an art group and a control group. Pre- and post-interviews and measures were used to assess participants’ self-esteem, self-control, behaviour, literacy skills and engagement with education. Numerous difficulties were identified with conducting such research in a prison environment, including the recruitment process and using standard assessment measures. However, results from the small number of men involved showed!an increase in engagement with education for all three groups during the project and a steady continued increase in education engagement for the music group after the project ended. Additionally, the music and art groups showed a small increase in mean scores for self-esteem, positive emotions reported and self-control. The second study examined two music interventions with young offenders as part of the year-long Inspiring Change pilot project. This study used interviews and session review forms with education staff and arts practitioners to document the process of the organisations involved in the planning and implementation of the projects. Focus groups with young offenders were carried out to gather their opinions of the programmes. Participants expressed that they especially appreciated the high level of professionalism of the arts practitioners, working as a group, and being recognised as making an individual contribution towards a final project. In addition to the survey and intervention studies, a Knowledge Exchange workshop was designed for music tutors in Scottish prisons to meet, learn about research on music in prisons, and exchange ideas for best practice. A workbook and afternoon workshop format was investigated in terms of its effectiveness and was found to be beneficial for music tutors in learning more about the research and practice of teaching music in prisons. This thesis contributes to the developing research on the benefits of music provision for prisoners and provides a baseline of music provision in Scottish prisons for further study.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Edinburgh
  • Overy, Katie, Supervisor
  • Whyte, Bill, Supervisor
  • Houston, Neil, Supervisor
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • music
  • prison
  • education
  • young offenders
  • knowledge exchange


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