Tue 07 Jul, 2024

How does National Prison Radio link to a reduction in reoffending?

Reoffending costs the government approximately £18 billion per year; the UKRI found 75% of ex-prisoners reoffend within nine years of release, and 39.3% within the first twelve months in the UK. Furthermore, it has recently been announced that prisons are at ‘operational capacity breaking point‘. But what are the Prison Radio Association and National Prison Radio doing to alleviate this?

Research shows that there are certain key factors that influence the likelihood of people reoffending. Over the years ‘pathways’ have been established to provide a framework for working with people in prison, with the intention of reducing the risk of people returning to prison. These include:

Attitudes, thinking and behaviour


Children and families

Drugs and alcohol

Education, training and employment

Finance, benefit and debt

Physical and mental health

The idea is, if support can be offered in line with these ‘pathways’ people will be less likely to return to prison.

So, how do we contribute?

His Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service states that the key to reducing reoffending is ensuring that our prison leavers are well-equipped for life on release. The Prison Radio Association contributes towards this via National Prison Radio.

While we as an organisation never claim to have the magic wand that would end reoffending behaviours, we do believe that through our work we can help people to cope with life inside prison and prepare for and believe in a brighter future on release.

All the radio programmes we produce for National Prison Radio target the key factors linked to reducing people’s likelihood of reoffending – for example, our show Love Bug encourages people to put pen to paper and reach out to loved ones via letters and phone calls, helping people inside prison to maintain and/or re-build relationships with people on the outside – statistically, prisoners who maintain family ties are nearly 40% less likely to reoffend.

Through its diverse programming schedule, National Prison Radio aims to promote a culture of positive change in prison, while acknowledging and addressing the challenges of imprisonment.

We partner with many organisations to provide crucial information that prisoners need to get their lives back on track before and after release. In 2023 alone we featured 328 organisations that work in the criminal justice sector, on shows such as NPR Talk which focuses on issues that impact people in prison. News, interviews and discussions meet the needs of the prison community, raising awareness of services available, disseminating information and inspiring people to make the most of their time inside.

Organisations we’ve worked with and feature include HMPPS, NHS England, UKHSA, Unlock, NACRO, Shelter, Women in Prison, Samaritans, Clean Slate, Shannon Trust, The National Lottery, Santander and many, many more.

From our studios in HMP Styal and HMP Brixton, we broadcast audio content that’s produced and presented by serving prisoners, working alongside our team of professional radio producers. This makes National Prison Radio a by prisoner, for prisoner service.

Attitudes, thinking and behaviour

National Prison Radio’s content is inspirational and looks at why people end up in prison. It focuses on solution-based radio – we give people the opportunity to try to solve whatever led them to commit crime in the first place and address their behaviour. We do this by sharing stories of those who are or have been in the same position as those listening inside are now.

Our Life After Prison podcast does exactly this: “Shout out Life After Prison. I’ve been banged up for four months. Sometimes I feel like getting angry and losing it, but then I listen to the wise words of Zak and Jules and I think: ‘it’s not worth it man’.”

Accomodation, employment and health

Our Life After Prison podcast for people who have been to prison features a show called Getting Out which is packed with help and support on the most important issues that people face when they first come out of prison.

This series covers topics such as accommodation, employment and health. To assist this, guests from organisations come into the studio to signpost listeners to useful support and information.

Children and families

We also understand the importance of keeping in touch with loved ones whilst inside. It combats loneliness, improves mental wellbeing and significantly reduces the potential of re-offending. We know that family ties are the ‘golden thread‘ to prison reform and that ‘relationships are fundamentally important if people are to change‘.

Our Family and Friends Request Show builds a community of support inside and outside prison through song requests, written messages and voice recordings. By helping people stay connected – we provide a lifeline to some of the most vulnerable and isolated people in society.

Drugs and alcohol

Reports show that around half of prisoners are addicted to drugs. We run campaigns to raise awareness and tackle common issues such as drug and alcohol addiction inside prison.

In our recent survey, 82% of prisoners said information about drugs/alcohol/addiction on National Prison Radio was helpful to them.

Education, training and employment

Employment for prison leavers has increased over the years, however, only 30% of prison leavers are in work after 6 months.

We equip people in prison with skills and confidence, increasing people’s chances of accessing employment and education after release.

With HQs in HMP Brixton and HMP Styal we train up to 30 prisoners a year in radio production and presenting. The audio they go on to create is then broadcast nationally via National Prison Radio.

We unearth talent behind bars and support people into training and employment in the production sector on release.

Finance, benefit and debt

Research suggests that between one third and one half of people in prison do not have a bank account. This is a significant barrier to securing employment and benefits after release.

Our podcast Money Mondays, which is available on National Prison Radio and the outside, explains financial services and products in simple terms while tackling listeners questions from within and beyond the prison walls.

Physical and mental health

Over half of people in prison report mental health issues such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety.

We produce and provide shows that encourage the importance of keeping your physical and mental health up during your time inside and post-release. These shows range from our follow along workout shows such as The Warm Up, to meditation and wellbeing shows such as And Breathe.

These types of shows feature professionals who are equipped to help prisoners understand that putting their health as a priority will reduce the likelihood of returning to prison.

National Prison Radio reaches prisoners directly in their cells in a way that no other intervention can.

We want to play a part in changing the narrative around people in prison. By addressing the key factors that influence reoffending, we want to show that with the right support, people can absolutely thrive in prison and on release.

If you’d like to stay up to speed with what’s going on with the Prison Radio Association you can follow us on:

X – @prisonradiouk
Instagram – @prisonradiouk
TikTok – @prisonradiouk
Facebook – Prison Radio Association
LinkedIn – Prison Radio Association

National Prison Radio is run by the Prison Radio Association – a registered charity. Our programmes and help people to cope with life inside prison and thrive on release. If you would like to support our work, and enhance the futures of people in prison across the UK you can make a donation at prison.radio/donate.