Art Behind Bars and similar coalitions have made a recent wave of impact across the UK. In Northern Ireland, the Prison Arts Foundation aims to create access to the arts for prisoners and ex-offenders, and they organize exhibitions to feature art produced by area current and former prisoners. They provide opportunities for residency, exhibitions and education, directly from visiting artists-in-residence in the visual, performance, literary, film and musical arts, as well as more craft-oriented and holistic arts.
The local PAN network in Scotland (SPAN) works with offenders, ex-offenders and local communities so that detainees and those recently released have a forum through which they can exchange ideas and techniques and continue individual and artistic growth.
Based in England, there are several programmes that foster an appreciation and talent for the arts in detainees. Members of the Arts Alliance collaborate with fellow artists and arts or criminal justice organisations to work with prisoners, those released on probation and ex-offenders to realise the power of making art to enrich and turn around lives in- and outside the cell walls.
Geese Theatre Company, for example, uses drama-based group work and theatre workshops to encourage participants to examine their own acts and behaviours. Using hand-made masks as metaphors of what is hidden and what is exposed has had a great impact on practitioners. As they lift they mask, they face the attitudes and behaviours that inform their actions, and they have the chance to change the way in which they conduct themselves.
The London Shakespeare Workout Company has been working with HMP Woodhill since 1998. Inmates have the opportunity to learn about the Bard while practicing some skills of improvisation. Improv is used as a microcosm of spontaneous communication in general so that upon release, ex-offenders will have greatly improved skills of listening, consideration, self-expression and communication.