A Playground in a prison

Last month Playground Surfaces had been installing a playground in Dovegate Prison near Uttoxeter.  It has been a unique experience for some of the team as Dovegate Prison is a category B prison, but is built so it could potentially house category A inmates if the need arose.  As such there is a serious amount of barbed wire and 6m+ tall fences and walls, which seemed daunting to us and we are getting out by 16:00 every day!

That aside, when we were asked to price for the playground we wondered what it’s intended use would be.  Obviously we knew it would be for the inmates’ children, but we came to the conclusion that it must have been outside the prison itself, for use when families came to visit.  Somewhere for the visiting children to let off a little steam after a long journey to the prison or perhaps to release some energy post visiting the prison.

However it turned out our assumptions were wrong and the playground was to be constructed inside the prison, at the front of the visitation wing.  Its intended use is to provide an area for fathers of younger children in the prison to enjoy some time in a play area where they can safely play with their children.  This resulted in another discussion as to whether we thought the playground was a good idea or not.

The debate covered points relating to whether having the opportunity to play with their children was a punishment/rehabilitation.

In some ways I thought it wasn’t particularly punishing as it is a privilege playing in the park with your child.  However, a guard pointed out that perhaps the ‘snapshot’ of inmates getting to play with their children, once a fortnight for a couple of hours, might also help the prisoners to see what they are missing out on and potentially give them.

Another point touched upon, was that the children themselves shouldn’t be punished for the actions of their family members.  After all the  children are there to visit their family/friends of family, not to be given punishment themselves.

After some research and discussion it was concluded by the team onsite that it was indeed a good idea with potentially positive outcomes.   But at the end of the day, what do we know about prisoner rehabilitation? What we do know about is installing playground flooring.

The Dovegate play area consists of Playdale equipment, as selected by the prisoners and Notts Sport ChildsPlay for the playground flooring.  There are a set of junior swings, a tower unit with slide, climbing wall and climbing net, two springers, a second toddler tower unit, incorporating swings, as well as four benches around the back of the playground.  The surfacing is all green ChildsPlay with adequate critical fall height protection beneath the equipment.  The green compliments the timber play equipment well giving the park a natural feel to it.

When we asked, the staff at the prison seemed to think the inmates’ children would be very pleased with the park.  Hopefully it will give one or two of the inmates chance to reflect upon what they are missing out on and maybe reduce the chance of the odd one re-offending.  We can but hope.


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