Correctional Recreation Researcher's Corner

This is a gathering point here for Correctional Recreation Researchers

The major purpose of this web site is to be "a reservoir of information on the issue of weight lifting in prisons". We encourage you to browse around the site and learn about this issue.

Some Research Comments

Please see our Bibliography of Correctional Recreation for additional references.

Current Research Topics

If you know of any current research projects going on in the area of correctional recreation, email us us and we will mention them here.

A paper in progress calls attention to many prison lifting injuries resulting from poor technique, lack of proper warmup, cool down, stretching etc and the widespread absence of programs to prevent/reduce this problem.

The State of New York Dept. of Corrections started a research project on the long term effects of weight lifting in prisons. They tried to do "follow up" interviews on those who had participated in prison postal meets over the last several years. I think the project may have stalled.

At the 96 NCRA Conference in Myrtle Beach their were many pleas for the attendees to try to gather data to support the need for recreation programs. If you will look through the papers at the 96 conference (a link is near the top of this page) you can read more about their viewpoints. Basically if recreators can gather data showing that effective recreation programs reduce the number of incidents (discipline reports), reduce the number of staff to control the population, improve the health of the inmates, and make life easier for the administration they will get more support.

I think the view needs to go beyond the walls. Most of the inmates in prison today will one day be released. We need to be documenting the recreation programs by individual inmate, following up on the inmates every few years after release, and then begin to use this data to create more effective recreation programs that best help the inmates re-enter society and live productive lives. Obviously, many will not - the programs need to be available for those who will take use of them to better themselves. So much for the soapbox - a place to begin is:

  • Document recreation program participation by individual inmates. Perhaps on a quarterly basis interview them and ask them which programs they have been participating in. You could also ask them about their frequency of participation (once a month, weekly, several times a week, etc). Follow up by taking the information they have supplied and first asking yourself if this sounds reasonable, do you remember seeing them around these activities? Next, have someone take their information and really observe their participation. The interview process could also be used to gather "customer satisfaction" type information about the programs and to get improvement suggestions. This information can be used to generate a database of recreation participation by activity and by the number of quarters the activity was participated in, and their frequency of participation during that quarter. This database could be used to generate all kinds of reports about the total number of inmates involved in various recreational activities and the frequency of their participation in them. Perhaps the NCRA could come forward with a recommended form to make this data more interchangeable and comparable across all institutions? You could collect the data suggested by the NCRA and then additional data if your wished?

  • Follow up data after release can come from several sources. Initially, parole data showing the inmates either being transferred smoothly into society at the end of their parole period, or having difficulties (re-incarceration, jumping parole, etc) during this period. Next, the National Institute of Justice and others collect data on prisoners re-entering the prison system. This data is currently supplied by numbers only. Perhaps at the state corrections system level the data could be made available on an inmate name basis (probably by social security number) to correctional researchers. Then each researchers could compare the recreation records on those individuals who were returned to state prisons. This information could be used to improve the programs to try to reduce recidivism.

  • Follow up data on individuals who have returned to normal lives could be obtained by interviewing them. Then using any comments they had about the recreation programs they participated in plus the data gathered earlier about their individual participation could be used to also try to improve the programs.

    The real problem with today's recreation system is that the loop is not closed. Recreators work with the inmates, the inmates leave, the recreators get new inmates and they work with them. The recreators are unable to follow up on the impact of their work after the inmates are released. The system has no feedback loop to drive it to improvement. Many research projects could be established around the problems of closing this loop. The faster work begins in this area the sooner programs can begin to utilize this type of information to both justify their existence, and to improve themselves.

    Quality of Life

    Some feel the correctional recreator's mission is to "improve the quality of life of inmates." I think some work could be done in the area of trying to determine the quality of life in institutions and how recreation effects it. If anybody is interested here are a few good places to start getting background info on "quality of life":

    Serious Leisure

    The topic of serious leisure is minimally addressed in correctional / prison literature. We will be trying to encourage more work in this area in the future. Much serious leisure research has been conducted in other fields by Robert A. Stebbins at the University of Calgary Dept. of Sociology. Dr. Donald Greer of the University of Nebraska made a presentation on this topic at the 2002 NCRA annual conference titled, Recent Advances in Intelligence and Self-Esteem: What They May Mean for Correctional Recreation.

    Research Tools and References

    There are some excellent databases on the net with correctional research information. Little of it is specific to correctional recreation, but the methods, and approaches can be learned from. Also some of them provide funding opportunities. These sites are listed in the Correctional Recreation Researcher's Links section of our LINKS segment. I would also encourage you to browse through the prison links section on the same page.

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