Prison garden area with plants and seating

Evaluation of 'Unlocking Nature: Greening our prison spaces


Conservation Foundation

Total value of project


Project team

Dr Geraldine Brown, Dr Jana Fried, Becky Crookes (University of Lincoln), Dr Geraldine Brady (Nottingham Trent University)


HMP Wandsworth

Duration of project

01/09/2017 - 30/04/2018

Unlocking Nature logo

Project overview

Research shows that environments lacking nature negatively impact psychological and psychological health and subjective wellbeing (Nanda et al. 2013; Ward Thompson et al., 2012; Velarde et al., 2007; Maller et al., 2006). Accordingly, these negative outcomes are heightened in stressful environments such as a prison. A growing body of prison-based research examining the use of land-based prison programmes identifies that they can result in a range of positive outcomes, these include; improving physical and mental health, subjective wellbeing, facilitate the development of life and work-related skills, improve relationships and support rehabilitation (Pearce & Seals, 2006; Brown et al., 2015; Chisholm & Goodyear, 2012; Lee et al., 2004; Grimshaw & King, 2002 and Kuo & Sullivan, 2001). 

The study carried out makes a further contribution to knowledge in this field. The research conducted was an evaluation of the Conservation Foundation's Unlocking Nature programme delivered in HMP Wandsworth. The programme aimed to increase skills, employability and wellbeing through the delivery of land-based interventions and 'green' specific external areas of the prison. The programme involved the delivery of a range of activities, which included gardening and food growing sessions with a horticultural leader, beekeeping, building, landscaping and general horticultural training.  

Project objectives

Unlocking Nature targeted two areas, an improvement in the built prison environment and the introduction of land-based interventions. Both activities have been acknowledged as influencing the physical and mental health and wellbeing of incarcerated men and women. 

Specific objectives were:

  • To explore participants experiences of accessing and engaging in the programme, capturing participants’ journeys and variation in experiences.  
  • To explore the programme’s impact on health and wellbeing.
  • To consider the extent that engagement with the programme enabled learning and development of work-related skills.
  • To consider the extent engagement in the programme fostered positive relationships between participants and staff.
  • To examine systems and process underpinning programme delivery.
  • To identify potential benefits, challenges and consider issues associated with the sustainability of the programme.
  • To identify areas of ‘good’ and ‘ineffectual’ practice.
  • The impact stemming from this work has contributed to the rehabilitative environment and provided evidence of good practice to inform the design and deliver of land-based prison interventions. This in turn improved the experiences of participants who have reported a range of improvements in areas such as physical health, mental health and wellbeing and also learning useful life and employment skills. Key findings have informed the development of land-based programmes delivered by organisations working in carceral settings and informed strategies for engaging marginalised groups.

  • Brown, G. & Brady, G., Collaborative research: Working together to deliver land-based prison initiatives, Methodological Innovations May-August 2020: 1-1.

    Brown, G., Fried, J., Crookes, B. & Brady, G. (2018) An evaluation of Unlocking Nature, Greening the prison environment. Report for Conservation Foundation, Coventry: Coventry University. 

    The Changing Room: Prison podcasts.

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