Evaluating a rugby sport intervention programme for young offenders
Purpose: Interventions intended to aid offender re-entry, rehabilitation and desistence based around specific sports and championed by sporting institutions have been introduced in custodial settings. Though research evaluating these is positive (Meek, 2012), conclusions are often hampered by the absence of control groups in such work. This study will evaluate the Saracens “Get Onside” rugby based intervention at HMPYOI Feltham, while employing a non-randomised control group. Design and Methodology: In total 24 young offenders took part. Those in the treatment condition experienced a ten week course which included a range of activities leading to accredited awards, exercises in functional skills in literacy/numeracy and 72 hours of rugby sessions. Those in the control condition were matched on key static factors, crime attitudes and aggression. Self-reported measures of pro-crime attitudes, aggression, self-esteem, and impulsivity were taken once before the start, once during, and at the end of the course for both groups. Findings: As predicted, self-reported scores measuring attitudes towards aggression and crime did differ significantly across groups, with those experiencing the intervention showing more positive values by the end of treatment compared with others. However, measures of impulsiveness and self-esteem showed no change. Limitations: Revisions are suggested in respect of both the self-esteem and impulsivity measures, and future work needs better control over the match between treatment and comparison groups. Originality/Value: This paper shows that concerns over the potentially iatrogenic effects of contact sport interventions may be misplaced, and the benefits of sporting interventions are replicated in a between groups design.