Prison Creative Industries: Scoping research for transformative culture and education

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Prison Creative Industries: Scoping research for transformative culture and education

Tara Brabazon

Professor of Cultural Studies / Dean of Graduate Research

Flinders University

Adelaide Australia


This article builds a link between internationally-infused creative industries policies, strategies and checklists, and prison-based programmes for art and industries within correctional services.  The goal is to understand the nature of the contemporary workplace, and provide alternative strategies and pathways for men and women to develop skills for a working life upon release from a correctional facility. The imperative of this scoping research is to address a single and key problem:  nearly 50% of the citizens released from prison will return to corrective services within two years.  This is an internationally generalizable problem and proportion.  To address this challenge, a whole of government – indeed a whole of society – approach is required.  The shaping initiatives proposed in this article offer a reconfiguration of sport, media, food, education, tourism, arts and cultural policy, operating against the reified and limited configuration of ‘creative arts,’ to provide strategies for entrepreneurship and regional development within the correctional discourse.  These initiatives summon a life and career beyond prison walls, to reduce recidivism and enable personal and social momentum, moving the social, cultural and economic axis from crime to justice.


Prison criminology, creative industries, ultra-realist criminology, knowledge economy, recidivism

Interdisciplinarity, multidisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity have limits in the conduct, funding and evaluation of research.  Research assessment and measurement exercises block partnerships that may require cross-panel referrals or operate outside the knowledge of panels of experts.  Particularly when a topic is volatile, the disciplinary borders are patrolled, monitored and managed.  New and powerful intellectual concepts and theories are emerging – like deviant leisure[1] and ultra-realist criminology.[2]  Such innovations are activated and disseminated beyond elite universities.   This is more than – to poach a phrase from the Research Assessment Exercise 2008 – ‘pockets of excellence.’  This phrase was a rationale – a justification – for the non-Russell Group producing outstanding research, often with little support from funding agencies.  This research is an activation and execution of intellectual and personal courage.  Steve Hall and Simon Winlow, based at Teesside University, have been personally and professionally courageous, researching crimogenetic white, English nationalism in a time of Brexit and the Alt-Right.[3]

Following in this tradition, my article offers models, shapes and tropes, bringing together disparate knowledge systems, but with a clear aim.  It is an unpopular topic, and to address it, I summon unpopular and unusual interdisciplinary relationships.  My task is to build a link between internationally-infused creative industries policies, strategies and checklists, and prison-based programmes for art and industries within correctional services.  The goal is to understand the nature of the contemporary workplace, and provide alternative strategies and pathways for men and women to develop skills for a working life upon release from a correctional facility.  This research summons and applies a series of international case studies and jurisdictions, including South Australia’s 10 by 20 initiative.[4]  The imperative of this scoping research is to address a single and key problem:  nearly 50% of the citizens released from prison will return to corrective services within two years.  This is an internationally generalizable problem and proportion.  To address this challenge, a whole of government – indeed a whole of society – approach is required.  The shaping initiatives proposed in this document offer a reconfiguration of sport, media, food, education, tourism, arts and cultural policy, operating against the reified and limited configuration of ‘creative arts,’ to provide strategies for entrepreneurship and regional development within the correctional discourse.  These initiatives summon a life and career beyond prison walls, to reduce recidivism and enable personal and social momentum, moving the social, cultural and economic axis from crime to justice.

Generalizations in correctional services are fundamentally inappropriate.[5]  Understanding the differentiations in security level, class, race, gender,[6] age and sexuality, alongside regional in/justices,[7] remains both necessary and important.  Further, it is necessary to expand the voices and views beyond traditional criminology.[8]  This article argues for the importance of learning – widely defined – alongside expansive understandings of creative industries and regional development when configuring the future of correctional services.  I am not undervaluing ‘artistic’ or ‘spiritual’ activities in prisons.[9]  However, I am interested in rendering the boundaries and borders of prisons porous to the new economic, social and cultural policies that operate effectively in regional areas.

Much of this article sweeps through the continuum from crime to restorative justice.[10] I overlay an internationally resonant and contemporary creative industries initiative that provides pathways for the men and women released from correctional services.  This is not an arts programme or a cultural programme.  This is an integrated social, cultural and economic agenda to offer bespoke and customized strategies to reduce recidivism.

Creativity:  the problematic concept

Culture, like creativity, is not an entity in itself:  it is framed, controlled, used, bought and sold.  It is part of political struggles and as an idea, is contested.  Raymond Williams, the British Marxist cultural critic, believed that culture was “one of the two or three most complicated words in the language.”[11]  Culture is used in many contexts:  agriculture, a cultured pearl, youth culture, intellectual culture, street culture or post-colonial culture.  A relational term, the historical usage is derived from agriculture:  the cultivation of animals and the soil.  Applied metaphorically, culture conveys a cultivation of the mind.  During the 19th century, particularly through the work of Matthew Arnold, culture became defined as the search for spirituality, rather than material goods.  Culture was about the appreciation of “the best that has been thought and said in the world.”[12]  The impetus behind the formation of the literary canon occurred when literature took on a greater social and political importance.  After industrialization and the growth of cities, a middle class fear was generated about an increasingly active and threatening working class.  Cities became a place of fear.  Religion was losing its power to dominate, survey and control, and culture provided the means by which control could be re-established.  The focus or fear of ‘mass society’ was a fear of the working class who were poorly educated but able to read.  If religion could not control people’s behaviour, then ‘good culture’ – reading ‘good’ books, listening to ‘good’ music – was a mode of surveillance, patrolling the urban working class, deflecting attention from wage and housing inequalities and poor living conditions.

Matthew Arnold’s Culture and Anarchy, which was first published in 1869, captured this desire.[13]  For Arnold, to understand culture was to understand the best in a culture.  This was an elite, empowered culture, promoted by a group that tried to transform class-based interests into general or popular interests.  These debates about cultural value bubble in the discussions of creative industries.  Since the industrial revolution, there has been a damaging assumption:  quality (high) culture is derived from the creativity of individuals.  It is pure and authentic, distanced from the gritty hands of exploitative capitalism.  Popular culture is ‘trash,’ made by groups – not an artist – and initiated not by creativity but the forces of money-making corporations.  To label the culture of particular oppressed groups as ‘mass’ or ‘low’ is to degrade their experiences and naturalize ‘high art’ as embodying ‘quality.’  Since the corrosive power of poststructuralism, it is no longer a simple task to determine that one part of culture is high culture and the other is popular culture.  All forms of culture are capitalist.  Therefore, the separation of creativity from commerce is nonsense, and unproductive socially and culturally.

The Creative Industries Quandary

Creativity is a word that is difficult to define. However it is important for policy development to separate creativity and creative industries.  Creativity enters an “entrepreneurial narrative,”[14] and also transforms the university into “a wider neoliberalized formation around creativity.”[15] The university is part of the ‘new economy’ that prioritizes the economic impact of creativity.  This ideology has been sold by Caves,[16] Howkins[17] and Florida.[18]  Justin O’Connor however, explored the contradictions between high culture and the creative industries.

Publicly subsidised culture turns over millions of dollars every month; it employs a vast arrange of people; it purchases and sells business services commercially; it involves extensive marketing and branding activity; it generates income through tickets and sponsorship.  Certain areas of the arts – such as the international gallery circuit – outdo the major luxury brands in attracting the disposable income of the very rich.  Cities invest millions in arts-led cultural makeovers.  The arts are, or can be, big business.[19]

The key transformation of media and arts policy to manage postindustrialization did not emerge from the United States, Canada, or even France, which has a history of democratic cultural initiatives.  Instead, the concept of creative industries emerged in the United Kingdom through the Prime Ministership of Tony Blair.

Why Britain and Why Blair?  The answer was desperation.  Britain was the first industrial nation.  In the 19th century, Britain was not only the home of an empire, but the first nation to undergo an industrial revolution.  The economy – industry – became productive and efficient. Social structures buckled, but economic growth boomed – exponentially.  Through the 20th century, the fighting of two world wars took their toll.  Other nations quickly caught up to Britain. By the 1960s, Great Britain had become little England, one of many European powers. Brexit – and the divided culture that resulted from the referendum – confirmed that this European – rather than global – future still remains an uncomfortable reality for many citizens.  It was a denial of the reality that the sun had not only set on the British Empire, but on British economic dominance.[20]

Tony Blair became Prime Minister in 1997.  He termed his project ‘new labour,’ to distance himself from the trade union past of the labour party.[21]  He was attempting to rebuild leftist politics by appropriating many of the conservative policies and attitudes towards the family, defence and industrial reform.  It was no surprise that it was Tony Blair who stood beside George W. Bush to argue for a war against Iraq.  This was a distinctive Labour Party that recognized that crucial political fight for progressive political parties is not between right and left, but a war over the centre.  That means, to get into office, the battle is over the centre, which may encompass 20% – or more – of the population.  That is why policies about families, work, child care, law and order and tax occupy the time in political debates.  These are the dog-whistle issues for this twenty percent of voters who determine the outcomes of elections.  This is also the group that moves to third party candidates or ‘outsiders’ (to the political process) such as Donald Trump.

Tony Blair was confronting a problem.  Not only had the Labour Party been out of office for eighteen years in the UK, through the prime ministerships of Margaret Thatcher and John Major, but economic growth was static, and highly regional.  The south of England was fuelled by the finance sector and real estate in London, but the North, Scotland and Wales had become post-industrial wastelands.  Tony Blair made a crucial recognition.  Britain was the first industrial nation.  Therefore, they were also the first post-industrial nation.  He recognized that new engines for economic growth needed to be found.  Perhaps the most extraordinary innovation that seemed very small at the time was the renaming of the Department of National Heritage, charged with preserving and managing old buildings, into the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.  This change of name happened in July 1997.  The old had been remade and reshaped by the new forces – not of buildings – but now culture, media, sport.  Chris Smith was appointed the first minister of this department:  the Secretary of State for National Heritage.  Changing the name of his department, it was Chris Smith’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport that developed the Creative Industries from 1997.  This department re-languaged and reshaped the area into a coherent strategy.  The British economy needed a radical change.  The industrial sector – manufacturing and mining – was destroyed through the 1980s.  There needed to be a shift in thinking, and a shift in policy.  The goal was to re-empower the disempowered and ensure that regional development was part of culture, media and sport policy.

Since the emergence of this policy innovation in the United Kingdom, other nations have taken on diverse modes of creative industries.  The overarching imperative is to remove self-standing definitions of ‘culture,’ ‘heritage’ and the ‘arts’ and enable a desire – indeed a necessity – for an integrated cultural, social and economic strategy for the future.[22]  There are many definitions of the creative industries.  Taking it as a noun, ‘the creative industries’ includes design, tourism, sport, architecture, screen and sonic media including popular music, fashion, publishing, crafts, gaming and leisure software.  Richard Florida described the workers in this sector as ‘the creative class.’[23]  Charles Leadbeater used the phrase ‘living on thin air.’[24]  In this tertiary sector, grain, beef, wool, cars or steel are not produced.  The outputs are designs, patents and experiences.

As an adjective, creative industries policy provided a new way to think about media, art and cultural policy.  The goal was to critique the notion of art for art’s sake, that art is somehow separate from economics and economic development.  It is important to remember that the Blair government needed a new engine of economic growth as a post-industrial nation.  At its most expansive, the creative industries policy was a way to facilitate economic growth, incorporate social justice and equity into culture, media and sport, particularly with attention to regions that suffered from the decline in manufacturing and primary industries.  That is why attendant to the creative industries is city policies and city imaging.  It offers a new way of thinking about a post-industrial and post-manufacturing society.  It is a way to map and track the changes to the economy triggered through globalization, digitization, the increased rate and proportion of the population that attend university, the rise of intellectual property rights, an awareness of copyright and the changing relationship between work and leisure.[25]

In this historical context, the Creative Industries model is a loans rather than a grant model, welcoming the imperative of the market but with a strong, facilitative role for government. Notions of quality culture, a group of ‘peers’ determining the value of culture, is dismissed.  The aim is to build businesses in and around the creative industries, using culture, media and the arts as the driver for economic development.  A different sort of value is deployed:  economic value rather than artistic value.  What the creative industries policies did, for the first time, was to map and recognize the economic value of this sector for the economy.  What is most significant about Creative Industries, which makes it structurally different from both the Creative Arts and Cultural Industry policy models, is that it builds relationships between sectors.  Because the focus is on economic development through culture, media and sport – which is often called creative businesses – there had to be attention to loans and funding, export promotion and education.  Art was not isolated from the rest of life, but linked with sport and tourism.  This was a way to add value to the arts, culture and media.

Creative industries, at its most effective, enable two incisor-like cuts into media, arts and cultural policy.  Firstly, it critiques notions of cultural value.  No form of dancing, visual art, music or fashion is better than any other.  This initiative critiques the establishment figures in culture and the arts, and widens the spectrum for governmental and private support.  Secondly, regional development and social justice are part of creative industries initiatives, allowing those who are rarely given opportunities, a chance to gain space and time.  The difficulty is that, while the elite gatekeepers are not running the creative industries, the imperatives of the market are.  Working in this new economic order is ruthless.  Individual labour contracts cut up the workforce.  Most of the creative industries are staffed by casual, part-time and contract labour.  This type of economy is often called ‘enterprise culture.’ It requires a partnership between government, industry and educational institutions, but it also challenges the ideologies of governmental bureaucracy.[26]  The labour rights and power of workers in the creative industries is low.  However it is important to remember what Rebecca Garrett and Liza Kim Jackson confirmed, “Artists have always lived in the land of Precaria.”[27]  The creative industries, however, makes this labour exchange overt, subverting the notion that art exists for its own sake, untouched by capitalism.

Creative industries and city imaging policies align, as the focus is to attract a talented group of workers to a location.[28]  However the problem remains – with a mobile labour force – how these workforces are maintained and sustained.[29]  This policy suite enveloping creativity, enterprise, innovation, creative cities and bohemian indices is not confronting one singular, disturbing truth.  Our supposed ‘new economy’ has much of the old economy within it:  unemployment, insider trading, recession and poverty.  Peter Temin argues that the United States, for example is a “dual economy.”[30]  There are two sectors:  the low-wage sector and FTE (finance, technology and electronics).  The only way to move between these sectors is via education.  However this transition has been rendered more difficult, because of the neglect of public schools and public universities. [31]  He argued that this splitting of economic sectors – which as an idea was derived from W. Arthur Lewis from the University of Manchester in 1954[32] – was actualized during the Nixon years, particularly through policy decisions in 1971. Whereas Lewis configured this dual model over the rural and urban economy, Temin inscribed the split between high and low skill workers.  He maps incarceration rates over this division.

The assertion that mass incarceration is for social control more than crime control is supported by the continuing rise in incarceration over the 1990s while the crime rate fell.  The causes of declining crime are not fully understood, but evidenced from cross-section comparisons indicate that increasing incarceration had little if any effect.[33]

The relevance for this debate when considering correctional services is clear.  Through much of criminology, ‘art’ was studied as a way to fill prison time, while also calming the individual and prison population.  Art was a disciplinary protocol.[34]  However, when infused by creative industries, the emphasis changes.  The public display of art development within prison culture moves beyond a fetishizing of the exotic or criminogenic.  It becomes a way to embed entrepreneurship in prison life,[35] and even prison tourism.[36]

What is clear is that the labour-intensive manufacturing jobs are no longer the spine, foundation or bedrock for the economy.  Therefore any economic policy has to work with the transformations of employment through technology.  The service sector, rather than manufacturing, is the area of growth.  Coffee shops are the new factories.  As Susan Halford, Maria Hudson, Pauline Leonard, Jane Parry and Rebecca Taylor acknowledged,

The world of work is changing as processes of globalisation, digitisation, economic crisis, demographic and social change intersect to produce new forms of work, working and working lives.  At the same time, enduring inequalities of gender, class, race and ethnicity, age and region continue to shape the partnering of work and employment as well as the experiences and relations of working lives.[37]

New inequalities and injustices are emerging through ‘flexible’ employment practices, including part-time unpaid internships,[38] and zero-hours contracts.[39]  The Global Financial Crisis had a profound effect on work, leisure, production and consumption.[40]  Particular groups are deeply impacted through these changes, including women, young workers, older workers, migrant workers and formerly incarcerated workers.  The ‘new workforce,’ which includes jobs enabled by digitization and the green economy are also tempered by positions working on the margins of legality, and the often undocumented work practices in the knowledge economy and creative industries.  The consequences of unemployment and underemployment create not only economic inefficiencies, but a loss of dignity, wellbeing, resilience and sustainability in individuals and communities.[41]  Identity economies[42] requires attention to how work – paid or otherwise – configures a sense of self.

Such debates are particularly powerful when considering the potential for creative industries developments by indigenous people.  The control of intellectual property rights, tourism around significant sites and ownership of the means of production are all part of self-determination and nation building.  Yet this potential and capacity is tethered to a current reality:  the high incarceration rate of indigenous people.  The inflexibility of prison design and timetables is particularly debilitating for indigenous peoples, often blocking the performance of obligations, social values and rules.[43] In Western Australia, the state with the highest proportion of indigenous prisoners, ‘work camps’ are in place.  While the phrase is disturbing and summons images of both slavery and genocide, these have value as they offer accommodation close to indigenous communities, while also improving employment skills.[44]  Internationally, criminal justice systems have not exercised respect with indigenous peoples.  When these men and women are imprisoned, it is often in a culturally inappropriate environment.

Creative Industries:  Opportunities, challenges and options

As confirmed in the first two sections of this paper, arts policy, historically, has moved through three stages.


While these categories do overlap, creative arts emerged through the 1950s, cultural industries through the 1980s and creative industries through the late 1990s.  The ‘culture industry,’ as a phrase, was derived from Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer in 1947.[45]  By the late 1970s, French scholars – particularly nested in communication studies – rendered the term plural:  cultural industries.[46]  It moved from theoretical to empirical case studies through the 1980s and 1990s.[47]

The funding models, products and outcomes of each of these labels are distinct.






The key imperatives of creative industries policies were a critique of cultural hierarchies and an expectation of profit through branding, skill development and design of products and outputs.  At its best, creative industries encourage an integration of a wide portfolio of sectors, social and economic institutions.  This is not (only) an ‘arts policy.’  This is an economic and social policy.

The originating goal of the Blair government was to align creative industries and regional development.  The areas of the UK that had been neglected through the post-industrial policies of the 1980s, particularly the north of England, Scotland, Wales and Cornwall, could house a ‘new economy’ that was not only digitally enabled, but also promoted brands, designs and new products for new times.  Particularly, tourism and sport were and are integral to creative industries initiatives.  Manchester was Cottonopolis in the 19th century, but re-created itself in the latter stages of the 20th century, beyond the textile industries and into sport, popular music, higher education and tourism.  Cornwall was the home of tin mining, but through food production and food tourism, developed a new income stream.[48]  Dundee, in a partnership between the local council and the University of Abertay, has become an international hub for gaming development.[49]

Creative industries possess a social justice momentum that has been lost in many of its translations by Canada, the United States and Australia.  The Aotearoa/New Zealand deployment of this model, particularly in Wellington under the Mayorship of Kerry Prendergast, ensured that Maoritanga was the bedrock of creative industries development, ensuring copyright and intellectual property rights were and are secured for Maori moko.[50]  From this small national example, the 54 African nations are guided by the Annual African Creative Economy Conference that probes “the role cultural and creative economies plan in the policy imaginary across the continent.”[51]  From small nations like New Zealand to wide cross-national partnerships, creative industries are offering dynamic and bespoke strategies.

What aligns such policies is inclusiveness, ensuring that a wide sweep of industries is incorporated into the creative industries portfolio, building productive and innovative links.  These include sport and music,[52] food and tourism, gaming and screen and sonic platforms, regional development and universities.  I refer to this strategy as the ‘horizontal integration of the creative industries.’


This horizontal integration describes the building of relationships between the sectors.  Therefore, the film industry builds relationships with food and wine tourism, as seen with Sideways.[53]  The success of Manchester United and Manchester City creates links with home and away tourism and also Urbis, the National Football Museum.[54]  The key is to create as many ‘value adds’ to each industry.[55]  Food industries gain through a link to tourism.  Arts and craft gain through the protections of intellectual property and copyright.  Sport and media generate innovations through their dialogue.  While recognizing the specific context and parameters of prison arts and prison industries, new models are available to allow prisoners to not only develop new personal and employable skills, but to ‘value add’ to those new skills after their release.  Art is not simply art.  Food production is not simply food production.  By building alignments between old and new industries, pathways to a non-recidivist future can be built.

Art, culture and creativity in corrective services

Within corrective services, such complex modelling has not yet impacted on policy.  Instead of creative arts, cultural industries and creative industries, in corrective services there are two streams.


This spectrum of activities maps over the first diagram presented in this article.  Yet the imperative of ‘artistic value’ in prison arts, disconnected from the social and cultural environment of prisons, does present unexpected outcomes.  In 2009, a sculpture appeared at the South Bank Centre in London.  It was supported, valued and validated until the artist’s identity was disclosed.  The artwork was purchased by the Royal Festival Hall, via the Koestler Trust.  The artist was a convicted double rapist and child murderer Colin Pitchfork.  The Trust argued that the artistic value was more important than the artist or his crimes.[56]  However the controversy emerged through the assumption that ‘art’ has ‘intrinsic value’ but not a ‘context.’

Cultural value in this context also dovetails with another ideology:  therapeutic value.  In other words, ‘art for art’s sake’ provides personal therapy for an individual.[57]


Within this modelling, prison arts fill the day for a prisoner in the punishment model, permitting opportunities for personal reflection on the crimes committed.  It dovetails with therapy narratives to manage both disabilities and emotional and physical abuse.[58]  Prison industries are different.  They are a mechanism to develop skills in prisons while offering restorative compensation to society, broadly defined.  If creative industries are overlaid on prison industries, then new economic and social strategies can build links between food, art, music production[59] and tourism, while also developing new skills for men and women after their release from corrective services.

Education and corrective services

Education matters to the rehabilitation and restorative models of prison arts, but also to the new modelling of Prison Creative Industries proposed in this article.  Higher Education has been the punctuation – the enabler – for many international models of creative industries.  Schools and further and vocational educational institutions have been neglected.  Such neglect – and the resulting injustices – is significant.   For example, of the 2000 prisoners in South Australia, 32% hold educational attainment at – or below – Grade 10.  Further, 40% of prisoners were unemployed at the time of their arrest.  Therefore, clear attention must be placed on education and training, particularly vocational and further education.  This emphasis has worked with effectiveness in the Northern Territory, the adjacent region to South Australia.  These successes include a Diploma of Interpreting – Indigenous Languages, from the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education and the Northern Territory Aboriginal Interpreting Service (AIS).[60]  Significantly, the Northern Territory Correctional Services assist this programme through the provision of literacy and numeracy support, thereby scaffolding the prisoners into academic literacies.  Other innovative options and opportunities include the Deckhand’s Course, delivered thought collaboration between Seafood and Maritime Industry Training (SMIT) and Northern Territory Correctional Services.  This is a six unit course, derived from the Certificate II in Seafood Industry – Fishing Operations.  Deckhand jobs are guaranteed after release.  A third innovative opportunity is in aquaculture operations, funded by the Northern Territory Department of Employment, Education and Training.  It trains indigenous prisoners in crocodile handling and aquaculture, enabling the harvesting of skins.  This is a small, developmental and entrepreneurial opportunity for Australia.  This package offers material from the International College of Advanced Education in Darwin, practical skills from the Noonamah Crocodile Farm, while once more receiving scaffolding literacy and numeracy support from the Northern Territory Correctional Services.[61]  In fact, food, food production and food tourism have been neglected within Australian creative industries, with a strong separation between primary industries (agriculture), secondary industries (manufacturing) and tertiary industries (the service sector).

The lesson from these initiatives is that it is a key to move beyond a generic recommendation for ‘education’ delivered to prisoners.  It is important to recognize, assess and increase basic skills for literacy and numeracy concurrently with an enabling programme to re-enter the workforce.  But then, the decision must be made as to the definition of what constitutes useful, appropriate and productive learning.  In the early 1990s, UNESCO recognized the importance of ‘basic education’ through correctional systems, as part of the universal right to educational access.[62]  It obviously holds functions with the security, supervision and manageability suite, but beyond punishment it is integral to any post-release opportunities.

It is also important to offer bespoke strategies beyond global and second tier cities.  Particularly for small – third tier – cities, ensuring partnerships and collaborations between schools, further and higher education and media, food, sporting and tourist organizations is a key to regional development.[63]  The programmes in place for Manchester, Seattle and Adelaide are different from Bolton, Flint and Port Lincoln.  Therefore, key and specific strategies can be developed for larger cities, while also recognizing the distinctive needs and opportunities in regional areas.  Prison and business partnerships are ongoing and can be expanded through a reframing of prison creative industries.

Lifelong learning in the knowledge economy

Lifelong learning is a catchphrase for a change in the purpose and agendas of Universities and is used in tandem with the knowledge economy.  Both neo-liberal and third way models of capitalism require the labelling and development of an aspirational class, a group who desires to move ‘above’ their current context.  Universities throughout their history have serviced middle class people.  Yet the current economy requires all workers to be value added with new skills.  Therefore groups beyond the traditional university cohort must be included in the university project, as part of the widening participation agenda.  In a double shifting, change-fatigued population, the enthusiasm for perpetual learning may be difficult to summon, but integral to economic development.

In correctional research, the development of “21st century skills” deploys the tropes of lifelong learning:  flexibility, digitization and collaboration.  Such educational and building design, “empower[s] learners to reconsider themselves, their opportunities and futures in the community.”[64]  With a focus on learning, a bridge is created between present and future identities.  Using the insights of learning design – whether through flipped classrooms, asynchronous and synchronous learning – spaces outside of disciplinary architecture can be configured.[65]

Research is demonstrating that prison education programmes do reduce recidivism.[66]  However it is also clear why such programmes fail:

  • Attitudes of prison staff.
  • The prison environment is not conducive to learning.
  • Limited range of available learning opportunities, focussed on literacy and numeracy.[67]

The question remains:  what is being learnt from these programmes?  What is valuable learning for a prison population that enables them to make a living after their release, and manage the bias, discrimination and prejudice of employers?  Certainly, prisoners who engage in education programmes are less likely to reoffend.[68]  The challenge with such studies is that it is difficult to generalize between jurisdictions because of the divergent number of years deployed to measure repeat offences.[69]  However it is clear that attention to building an open classroom culture, that enables diverse communication strategies, empowers disempowered communities.[70]

Outside of the creative industries literature, this ambiguity between learning and making a living has been described as “occupational deprivation”:  the lack of engagement with an array of occupational settings outside of prisons.[71]  This ‘throughcare’ – the capacity to delivery continual care, services and support to prisoners to enable rehabilitation during and after their release – is expensive in the short-term but transformative in the medium and long term.[72]

Certainly, education programmes are a form of prison management, occupying time.  But there is a greater value:  avoiding prisonization, the socialization into prison environments.[73]  Balancing security and rehabilitation remains the constant challenge.[74]  The inability to access the internet in a correctional facility at the same time as ‘distance learning’ packages in further and higher education have now transformed into ‘online learning,’ is a structural challenge.[75]  In the UK, Virtual Campuses have been created, a secure intranet where a prison can access university materials.[76]  The Open University’s learning management systems allow access to their materials, while also blocking the wider use of the internet.[77]  An Australian version of this project has emerged from the University of Southern Queensland.  They activate a server with Moodle and use a computer not connected to the internet.[78]  The programmes made available include a tertiary preparation programme, indigenous higher education pathways programme, a diploma of arts and a diploma of science.[79]

This engagement in a digital environment, while verifying a separation from the internet, is a key literacy and expertise factor in the knowledge economy.  The ‘maker movement’ – where the democratization of technology allows new forms of economic, social and cultural development – is a key part of this (frequently utopic) ideology of the new economy.[80]  This strategy also enables the management of regionality.  Regional disadvantage intensifies the multi-facetted injustice confronting prisons, particularly indigenous prisoners.  Eva McRae-Williams has studied learning pathways to employment in remote correctional centres.[81]  The partnership between the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education and the Department of Correctional Services in the Northern Territory has created a “live-work learning environment.”[82]  This is part of a wider programme of Sentenced to a Job initiative.  McRae-William’s study confirmed that incarceration provided the opportunity to learn with reflection on past crimes and future opportunities.  A routine was constructed that enabled employment patterns of behaviour. Therefore prison became “a vehicle for employment.”[83]  Other studies have confirmed that prison offers indigenous people – often for the first time in their life – food choice, medical services and learning opportunities.[84]

While McRae-William’s research revealed pivotal outcomes for indigenous people who have been incarcerated in remote Australia, she also showed through her work that “alcohol abuse patterns and the difficulty of overcoming associated dysfunction were insurmountable for the inmates.”[85]  Therefore while incarceration provided a space for learning, the lack of post-release and parole support and programmes rendered the opportunities of this scheme unfulfilled. Therefore, if the goal is to increase the economic and employment options for indigenous men and women in remote Australia after leaving prison, then learning, education and work-preparedness are not sufficient.  A decentralized substance abuse programme for remote communities is a key step to creating change.[86]  The desire for change is present and verbalized in the interviews that scaffolded the McRae-Williams’ research:

All the crime we done, we always drunk, we didn’t think.  Then I’m in a cell, and I think, ‘what I bin do?’

Makes you want to leave grog when you get out.[87]

Currently, the movement from prison to work is only marginally mitigated by educational opportunities in prison.  But the success of these schemes is dampened by the lack of support – particularly with abuse behaviours – upon leaving prison.  The Closing the Gap reports from 2009 to 2016 listed the traumas caused by colonization[88] and marginalization:  high mortality rates, high rates of self-harm, family violence and incarceration.[89]  Therefore, to manage recidivism, training, education, formal and informal learning must be aligned with clear, structured and engaged post-release care.[90]

Through the twentieth century, and particularly after 1945, education was the track to social mobility.  The difficulty now with degree inflation and the loss of stable, secure, long-term employment is that new modes of exclusion and disempowerment are being perpetuated through the education system.  The key necessity for all students to learn is motivation.  Without motivation, students will not learn.  Those who are without a context for education – from family or friends – will rarely be successful in their learning.  Those already in work undertake lifelong learning.  Adult education operates well for members of the middle class who are doing well and wish to do better.  The LinkedIn purchase of confirms this premise.[91]  But there is a large group of people that choose not be a part of the national project of individual improvement, increased market share, company competitiveness and international standards are not relevant to the economy.  These are the (old) working class not in work.  They are irrelevant to a modern economy, and socially very vulnerable.  A blurring of work and learning, and work and leisure, may seem to create a borderless education, a learning framework uninhibited by curriculum, assessment or power structures.  But lifelong learning aims to place as many (national) citizens as possible in ‘the system,’ striving for success or at least a pay increase which will facilitate the purchase of more consumer goods.

Lifelong learning is a necessary accoutrement to the creative industries project.  Learning cities and communities are the foundations for design, music, architecture and journalism.  Nearly two decades ago, Stuart Cunningham and others listed the eight trends that order education, teaching and learning in this new environment.


The changes to the provision of education
The arrival of new information and communication technologies.
The development of a knowledge economy, shortening the time between the development of new ideas and their application.
The formation of learning organizations.
User-pays education.
The distribution of knowledge through interactive communication technologies (ICT).
Increasing demand for education and training.
Scarcity of an experienced and trained workforce.

This later table presents the current challenges confronting education.  This new economy makes specific demands of education.  Terry Flew described the changes in the following table

Education in the ‘old economy’ and the ‘new economy’

Old Economy New Economy
Four-year degree Forty-year degree
Training as a cost Training as a source of competitive advantage
Learner mobility Content mobility
Distance education Distributed learning
Correspondence materials with video Multimedia centre
Fordist training – one size fits all Tailored programmes
Geographically fixed institutions Brand named universities and celebrity professors
Just-in-case Just-in-time
Isolated learners Virtual learning communities

The educational requirement from the new economy is comprised of short courses offered on the web, servicing the needs of industry.  Flew described the product of this system as a “learner-earner.”  This ‘forty year degree’ is based on lifelong learning ideologies.  The effect on the ‘learner-earner’ in having to earn more money in work to privately fund a continuance of learning to ensure that they keep on earning.  There will be consequences to the housing market, family structures and leisure time.  The costs of education will impact on other sectors of the economy and private lives.  Notice the changing definition of student to incorporate the consumer of education.


When the phrase lifelong learning is used these days it also means web-based, individualized, customized and privatized education.  In such an environment, there are problems establishing social cohesion, let alone social justice.  Currently, the empowered and well educated gain from lifelong learning and creative industries.  The gap remains between prisons and creative industries.  Yet if popular music, sport and food are incorporated into the creative industries – which has not been the case in Australia – innovative opportunities are available along the pathways between creative industries and the opening of prison gates.

This paper has created spaces for hybrid theory, scoping and shaping how creative industries could operate in correctional facilities.  While criminology and creative industries are sourced from disparate disciplines, when aligned, a more complex configuration of the political economy of recidivism can emerge.  Challenges remain in negotiating the relationship between skills and knowledge, and literacy, numeracy and employability.  Yet when considering the relationships between industries – such as food, music, sport, art and craft – a plurality of regional and personal development options are available to consider in policy.



[1]               Significant research in this emerging new paradigm is emerging from Plymouth University.  Please refer to O. Smith and T. Raymen, “Deviant Leisure:  A criminological perspective,” Theoretical Criminology, 2016, pp. 1-17, file:///C:/Users/Tara%20Brabazon/Downloads/Smith%20Raymen%20Deviant%20Leisure.pdf

[2]               S. Hall and S. Winlow, Revitalizing criminological theory:  towards a new ultra-realism, (Abingdon:  Routledge, 2015)

[3]               S. Hall and S. Winlow, The rise of the Right: English nationalism and the transformation of working-class politics, (London:  Policy, 2016)

[4]               10 by 20, Department of Correctional Services, August 11, 2016

[5]               National, state, provincial and regional differences are clear.  For example, after the establishment of the federal system of government in Australia through the Constitution of 1901, the parameters of law making between the commonwealth and the states and territories was defined.  Correctional services remained within the parameters of state governments, which means that each state and territory of Australia have developed independent facilities, policies and procedures.  There are no federal prisons.  Breaches to federal legislations are managed within the jurisdiction of sentencing.  The majority of Australian prisoners are serving short-term sentences, less than twelve months, with less than 10% of the prison population female, one quarter of the prison population indigenous, and the median age in the early thirties.  Please refer to Australian Bureau of Statistics, Prisoners in Australia, 2005, ABS Canberra, 2006, Cat. No. 4517.0

[6]               Lisa Biggs stated that, “women have been largely invisible in crime discourse in South Africa; they have never been conceived of as either the primary authors or objects of the law,” from “Serious Fun at Sun City:  Theatre for incarcerated women in the ‘new’ South Africa,” Theatre Survey, Vol. 57, No. 1, January 2016, pp. 1

[7]               T. Clear, Imprisoning communities:  How mass incarceration makes disadvantaged neighbourhoods worse, (New York:  Oxford University Press, 2007)

[8]               I particularly log the value of Convict Criminology and the research of Jeffrey Ross, Stephen Richards, Greg Newbold, Michael Lenza, and Robert Grigsby.  To view the paradigm, please refer to J. Ross and S. Richards, Convict Criminology, (Belmont:  Wadsworth, 2003)

[9]              This value has been well presented by Rose Parkes and Charlotte Bilby, “The courage to create:  the role of artistic and spiritual activities in prisons,” The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, Vol. 49, No. 2, 2010, 97-110

[10]             J. Braithwaite, Restorative Justice and responsive regulation, (New York:  Oxford University Press, 2002)

[11]             R. Williams, Keywords:  A vocabulary for culture and society, (London:  Fontana, 1988)

[12]             M. Arnold, Culture and Anarchy  and Other Writings,  (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1993)

[13]             ibid.

[14]             A. Bill, “Counter-conduct in creative university research:  deliberations on freedom,” Higher Education Research and Development, 2016, p. 1

[15]             ibid., p. 2

[16]             R.E. Caves, Creative Industries:  Contracts Between Art and Commerce, (Cambridge:  Harvard University Press, 2000)

[17]             J. Howkins, The Creative Economy:  how people make money from ideas,  (London:  Allen Lane, 2001)

[18]             R. Florida, The Rise  of the Creative Class and How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life, (New York:  Basic Books, 2002)

[19]             J. O’Connor, Arts and creative industries:  A historical interview; and An Australian conversation, Australian Government and Australia Council, 2015, p.5

[20]             The impact of the Global Financial Crisis on corrective services is starting to emerge in the research literature.  A strong contribution is H. Aviram, Cheap on Crime:  recession-era politics and the transformation of American punishment, (Berkeley:  University of California Press, 2015)

[21]             D. Buckingham and K. Jones, “New Labour’s Cultural Turn:  some tensions in contemporary educational and cultural policy,” Journal of Education Policy, Vol. 16, No. 1, 2001, pp. 1-14

[22]             A. Albert, H. Bakhshi, S. Mitchell and R. Smithies, Publicly-funded arts as an R&D lab for the creative industries, (London:  NESTA, 2013)

[23]             R. Florida, Cities and the Creative Class, (New York:  Routledge, 2005)

[24]             C. Leadbeater, Living on thin air:  the new economy, (London:  Penguin, 2000)

[25]             E. Belfiore, “Auditing culture:  the subsidised cultural sector in the new public management,” International Journal of Cultural Policy, Vol. 10, 2004, pp. 183-202

[26]             The twentieth century economist, Joan Robinson, stated that, “it is a popular error that bureaucracy is less flexible than private enterprise.  It may be so in detail, but where large scale adaptations have to be made, central control is far more flexible.  It may take two months to get an answer from a government department, but it takes twenty years for an industry under private enterprise to readjust itself to a fall in demand,” from J. Robinson, “Obstacles to full employment,” Contributions to Modern Economics, (New York:  Academic Press, 1978), p. 27

[27]             R. Garrett and L. Jackson, “Art, Labour and Precarity in the age of veneer politics,” Alternative Routes, Vol. 27, 2016,, p. 279

[28]             Please refer to R. Florida, The rise of the creative class, (New York:  Basic Books, 2012) and A. Petruzzelli, V. Albino and N. Carbonara, “Technology districts,” Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 11, No. 5, 2007, pp. 98-114

[29]             S. Darchen and D. Tremblay, “What attracts and retains knowledge workers / students?” Cities, Vol. 27, No. 1, 2010, pp. 225-233

[30]             P. Temin, “The American Dual Economy:  race, globalization and the politics of exclusion,” International Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 45, 2016, pp. 85-123

[31]             ibid.

[32]             W.A. Lewis, “Economic Development with Unlimited supplies of labour,” Manchester School, Vol. 22, 1954, pp. 139-91

[33]             Ibid., p. 102

[34]             M. Schrift, “Angola Prison Art:  Captivity, creativity, and consumerism,” Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 119, 2006, pp. 257-274

[35]             P. Wright, The cultural commodification of prisons,” Social Justice, Vol. 27, No. 3, 2000, pp. 15-21

[36]             J. Adams, “The wildest show in the south:  tourism and incarceration at Angola,” Drama review, Vol. 45, No. 2, 2001, pp. 94-108 and C. Strange and M. Kempa, “Shades of dark tourism at Alcatraz and Robben Island,” Annals of Tourism Research, Vol. 30, No. 2, 2003, pp. 384-405

[37]             S. Halford, M. Hudson, P. Leonard, J. Parry, R. Taylor, The New Dynamics of Work:  A Scoping Study, (University of Southampton:  Work Futures Research Centre, 2016), p. 3

[38]             S. Baxter, “Wanted:  experienced interns.  And I’m not joking,” New Statesman,

[39]             G. Jones, Youth, (Cambridge:  Polity Press, 2009) and T. Lanning, From learning to earning:  understanding the school to work transition in London, (London:  IPPR, 2012)

[40]             G. Sholette and O. Ressler (eds.), It’s the political economy, stupid:  the Global Financial Crisis in Art and Theory, (London:  Pluto, 2013)

[41]             ibid., p. 7

[42]             G. Akerlof and R. Kranton, Identity Economics:  How our identities shape our work, wages, and well-being, (Princeton:  Princeton University Press, 2010)

[43]             E. Grant, “Designing carceral environments for indigenous prisoners:  a comparison of approaches in Australia, Canada, Aotearoa New Zealand, the US and Greenland (Kalaallit Nunaat),” Advancing Corrections Journal, No. 1, 2016, p. 27

[44]             ibid., p. 35

[45]             T. Adorno and M. Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment, (London:  Verso, 2008)

[46]             A. Girard, “Cultural industries:  a handicap or a new opportunity for cultural development?” in UNESCO (eds), Cultural industries a challenge for the future of culture, (Paris:  UNESCO, 1982), pp. 24-39 and B. Miege, “The cultural commodity,” Media, Culture and Society, Vol. 9, 1987, pp. 297-311

[47]             D. Hesmondhalgh, The cultural industries, (London:  SAGE, 2013)

[48]             S. Everett, and C. Aitchison, (2007) Food tourism and the regeneration of regional identity in Cornwall: An exploratory case study. In: Aitchison, C. and Pritchard, A., eds. (2007) Festivals and Events: Culture and Identity in Leisure, Sport and Tourism. (Eastbourne: Leisure Studies Association, 2007) p. 167,

[49]             Computer Games Courses,

[50]             New Zealand Intellectual Property Office, Maori advisory committee and Maori trademarks, 2017

[51]             C. De Beukelaer, “Toward an ’African’ take on the cultural and creative industries?” Media, Culture & Society, 2016, p. 1

[52]             S. Baker and S. Homan, “Rap, recidivism and the creative self:  popular music programme for young offenders in detention,” Journal of Youth Studies, Vol. 10, No. 4, 2007, pp.459-476

[53]             T. Brabazon, “Swan Valley Sideways,” Nebula, Vol. 8, December 2011,

[54]             T. Brabazon, Playing on the Periphery:  Sport, identity, memory, (London:  Routledge, 2006)

[55]             For example, Cheddar Gorge and Caves,

[56]             C. Purves, “Colin Pitchfork’s art cannot repay the debt of the lives he took,” The Times, April 9, 2009,

[57]             For example, please refer to L. O’Grady, The therapeutic potentials of creating and performing  music with women in prison:  a qualitative case study, Doctor of Philosophy thesis, Faculty of Music, University of Melbourne, 2009

[58]             For example, D. Gussak, “The effectiveness of art therapy in reducing depression in prison populations,” International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, Vol. 51, No. 4, 2007, pp. 444-460, R. Milliken “Dance/movement therapy as a creative arts therapy approach in prison to the treatment of violence,” The Arts in Psychotherapy, Vol. 29, 2002, pp. 203-6, C. Mullen, “Reaching inside out:  arts-based educational programming for incarcerated women,” Studies in Art Education, Vol. 40, NO. 2, 1999, pp. 143-161, J. Seibel, “Behind the gates:  Dance/movement therapy in a women’s prison,” American Journal of Dance Therapy,” Vol. 30, 2008, pp. 106-109

[59]             I recognize A. Cox and L. Gelsthorpe’s Beats & Bars, Music in Prisons:  An evaluation, (London:  The Irene Taylor Trust, 2008)

[60]             “Rising indigenous workforce in Australia’s heartland:  Alice Springs,” Batchelor Institute, September 19, 2013,

[61]             Noonamah Crocodile Farm,

[62]             P. Sutton, Basic Education in Prisons:  Interim Report, (Hamburg:  UNESCO Institute for Education, 1992)

[63]             T. Brabazon, Unique Urbanity, (Berlin:  Springer, 2014)

[64]             R. Lulham, D. Tomkin, L. Grant, Y. Jewkes, “The risk of ‘a cold conservatism’ in correctional facility design:  the case for design innovation,” Advancing Corrections Journal, No. 1, 2016, p. 19

[65]             N. Awofeso, “Disciplinary architecture:  Prison design and prisoners’ health,” Hektoen International:  A Journal of Medical Humanities, Vol. 3, No. 1, 2011.

[66]             H. Farley and A. Pike, “Engaging prisoners in education:  reducing risk and recidivism,” Advancing Corrections Journal, No. 1, 2016, p. 65.  For a strong analysis of how research is ignored and its consequences on imprisonment rates, please refer to F. Cullen, C. Jonson and D. Nagin, “Prisons do not reduce recidivism:  the high cost of ignoring science,” The Prison Journal, Vol. 91, 2011, pp. 48-65

[67]             R. Gillies, A. Carroll, K., Swabey, D. Pullen, A. Fluck and J. Yu, “The role of post-secondary education among ex-inmates living crime-free,” Paper presented at the 2014 Journals Australian Association for Research in Education and New Zealand Association for Research in Education Conference, Brisbane, Australia

[68]             L. Davis, R. Bozick, J. Steele, J. Saunders and J. Miles, Evaluating the effectiveness of correctional education:  a meta-analysis of programs that provide education to incarcerated adults, (Santa Monica:  Rand, 2013)

[69]             S. Andersen and T. Skardhamar, “Pick a number:  mapping recidivism measures and their consequences,” Statistics Norway, No. 772, March 2014,

[70]             D. Durr and E. Brown, “Born Sinner, Fashioned Divine:  the criminalization, commodity and creativity of young black males,” Black Technology, Vol. 14, No. 1, April 2016, pp. 43-52

[71]             M. Molineux, G. Whiteford, “Prisons:  from occupational deprivation to occupational enrichment,” Journal of Occupational science, Vol. 6, No. 3, November 1999, pp. 124-130

[72]             M. Borzycki, Interventions for prisoners returning to the community, Report prepared by the Australian Institute of Criminology , Australian Government Attorney-General Department, Canberra, December 2006,

[73]             D. Brazzell, A. Crayton, D. Mukamal, A. Solomon, N. Lindahl, From the classroom to the community:  exploring the role of education during incarceration and re-entry, (Washington:  The Urban Institute, 2009)

[74]             A key monograph in this field is F.A. Allen, The decline of the rehabilitative ideal:  penal policy and social purpose, (New Haven:  Yale University Press, 1981)

[75]             To view the movement into digitized education please refer to Christine Greenhow, Julia Sonnevend and Colin Agur’s edited collection, Education and Social Media, (Cambridge:  MIT Press, 2016)

[76]             A. Pike, Prison-based transformative learning and its role in life after release, Doctor of Philosophy, Open University, Milton Keynes, 2014

[77]             A. Pike and A. Adams, “Digital exclusion or learning exclusion?  An ethnographic study of adult male distance learners in English prisons,” Research in learning technology, Vol. 20, NO 4, 2012, p. 363-376

[78]             H. Farley, A. Pike, S. Hopkins, “Bringing digital literacies to students in prisons:  challenges and opportunities,” Paper presented at the Unlocking Innovation in Education in Prison, EPEA 2015, Antwerp Belguim, 2015

[79]             ibid., p. 69

[80]             S. Lindtner, S. Bardzell and J. Bardzell, “Reconstituting the utopian vision of making:  HCI after technosolutionism,” CHI’16, My 7-12, 2016, San Jose, California

[81]             E. McRae-Williams, Pathways of learning for employment within a correctional centre:  The remote Aboriginal experience, Cooperative Research Centre for Remote Economic Participation Research Report (CR016), (Alice Springs:  Ninti One Limited, 2016)

[82]             ibid., p. iii

[83]             ibid.

[84]             Please refer to D. Turgeon, “Crime and Indigenous Australians,” 4th National Outback Symposium on Crime in Australia, June 1-6, 2001, Australian Institute of Criminology, Canberra, and C. Holmes and P. Stephenson, Evaluation of the Elders Visiting Program, Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education, Bachelor, 2011,

[85]             McRae-Williams, op. cit.

[86]             ibid., p. 10

[87]             Interviewees from E McRae-Williams, “Aspirations for meaningful livelihoods:  challenges of pathway navigation,” Journal of Australian Indigenous issues, Vol. 17, No. 4, 2014, pp. 57-71

[88]             C. Cunneen and S. Rowe, “Changing narratives:  colonised peoples, criminology and social work,” International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, Vol. 3, No. 1, 2014, pp. 49-67

[89]             Closing the Gap Reports, Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013

[90][90]           J. Graffam and L. Hardcastle, “Ex-prisoners and ex-offenders and the employment connection:  assistance plus acceptance,” in S. Dawe (ed.), vocational education and training for adult prisoners and offenders in Australia, (Adelaide:  NCVER, 2007)

[91]             “LinkedIn buys for 15 Billion,” Business Insider, April 9, 2015,