parkrun will be taking its reputation as an agent for social change to a new level on Saturday with a first event being staged within the confines of a prison. Prisoners at HMP Haverigg (pictured), a Category C prison in Cumbria with 300 prisoners, are set to take part in the weekly 5k for the first time from this Saturday thanks to this pioneering initiative.
The event, to be known as Black Combe parkrun, will take place within the confines of the prison each Saturday morning and will see inmates and staff involved as walkers, runners and volunteer organisers. If successful, the initiative could be rolled out across the country, with a further six prisons already expressing interest in starting their own parkruns.
There are two days a year where, instead of a regular visit, prisoners’ families can join in with activities. HMP Haverigg hopes to arrange for one of these to be on a Saturday to coincide with parkrun.
parkrun’s Head of Health and Wellbeing, Chrissie Wellington, said: “Every day we hear stories of how parkrun has improved people’s mental, physical and social health and transformed their lives. We aim to ensure that as many people as possible can benefit from parkrun, and this includes creating events that are accessible to people in prison.
“In taking the pioneering and bold step of developing the inaugural parkrun on an HMP site, we are offering prisoners, their families and prison staff, the opportunity to reap the wide-ranging benefits of regular, enjoyable, social and safe physical activity and volunteering opportunities. The prisoners themselves will help to deliver the events every week, providing an empowering sense of responsibility and ownership. With more than 670 free, weekly parkruns across the UK, family and friends can also take part in parkrun, providing a unifying interest and shared experience.
“parkrun events also provide a welcoming, supportive and non-judgemental community for the prisoners to be part of when they reintegrate into society, and help to continue that process of personal development. The beauty is that this initiative is eminently scalable, and can be rolled out across the prison estate in the UK, and even globally should there be the demand.
“Although there is no one silver bullet that can be deployed in the battle to prevent offending and re-offending behaviour, we feel that parkrun can be a unifying force for good in the desistance from crime and changing lives for the better.
“The response from prisoners at HMP Haverigg has already been extremely positive, and the first event hasn’t even launched. We have been told that some prisoners have started running on treadmills and are supporting other prisoners to make positive lifestyle choices, all because of how much they are looking forward to taking part in a weekly parkrun.”