Celebrating and promoting the best in UK prisons, probation and youth justice
COMMENDEES 2017-18: Craig and Keith, gym managers at HMP Perth and HMP Kilmarnock respectively, receive a Commendation for their roles pioneering the ‘Fit for LIFE’ project, and its delivery throughout the Scottish Prison Service.
Craig Mailer of HMP Perth and Keith Mason of HMP Kilmarnock are two gym managers with half a century of experience between them. Their instrumental work alongside Glasgow University on the pioneering and sector-leading ‘Fit for LIFE’ initiative has since been rolled across the entire Scottish Prison Service – and farther afield – and is a substantial legacy for better health among hard to reach prisoners.
Initial nominator Craig Maxwell, Assistant Director of Offender Outcomes at Kilmarnock, calls Craig and Keith “inspiring and forward thinking”, and explains that the project would not have happened without their sustained enthusiasm and engagement. Working over four years with a team of researchers at Glasgow University, in collaboration with prisoners, they developed the ‘Fit for LIFE’ programme “specifically for prison contexts”. They were particularly interested in reaching prisoners who weren’t using the gym facilities, and finding ways to coax them into better and more sustainable health.
The programme uses the latest behaviour change research and techniques to improve the health of prisoners, which, as Craig notes, is “an often neglected area of public health research.” Delivered over 10 sessions in 10 weeks, the sessions are all highly interactive, and participants become comfortable about speaking out in the group. The 10 weeks are carefully structured so that each session builds on the previous session, to provide men with a toolbox of proven techniques and strategies that they can choose from to help them adopt a healthier lifestyle.
The impact is such that Fit for LIFE is now being delivered by the Scottish Prison Service and Serco, under exclusive license from the University of Glasgow, across all prisons in Scotland. “Keith and Craig have been at the forefront of the roll out of Fit for LIFE across Scotland, through the development of a ‘train the trainer’ package. This package has now been delivered twice to PEIs from all prisons across Scotland,” says Craig.
Nor are they resting on this already remarkable achievement. Having trained their colleagues across Scotland, they’re undertaking further development work to adapt the programme for female prisoners. There are also plans to extend the programme to all Serco prisons in the United Kingdom, and there’s an international dimension, with Keith and Craig having taken part in international conferences in Glasgow and Paris.
Butler Trust Local Champion and Personal Assistant to the Director of Kilmarnock, Heather McAllister, notes that “Keith and Craig’s work on the Fit for LIFE programme is respected by academic partners to the extent that they will be co-authors on a number of peer-reviewed journal articles.”
Dr Matthew Maycock, an Honorary Research Fellow at the Social and Public Health Sciences Unit at Glasgow University, notes their “inspirational leadership”, and says that “without their commitment, the programme simply would not have happened. Their work has ensured that the programme is making an important and positive impact on the lives of prisoners all across Scotland.”
Pamela Swan, Kilmarnock’s Acting Director, adds that Craig and Keith “have together done something truly innovative and which has significantly impacted on the lives of prisoners.”
The programme promotes not only increased physical activity and decreases in sedentary time, but also looks to improve wellbeing and other aspects of lifestyle change that can be achieved in prison. An important element has been to improve the data – to academic standards – collected by physical education instructors, to optimise the project’s development. That data is already showing “important improvements in terms of diet, wellbeing, self-esteem, and fitness”.
After Craig and Keith developed Fit for LIFE, they polished a training package and delivered it to instructors across all other Scottish Prisons. This achievement is something, they note, “that had never been done for a period of approximately thirty years beforehand”.
With plans to develop the approach to primary schools, too, it looks like the continued impact of their remarkable work is assured.