SPIRITS – Skills Improvement of Prison Inmates through Sport

Central and Eastern Europe has the highest rate of prison population in Europe. The incarceration rate per 100 000 population in new member states is more than 100, in Romania – 142, in Bulgaria – 125, compared to Italy – 89 and Greece – 91. Most of the prison population is male, approximately 95%, with very high level of foreign representation in Greece –54% and in Italy – 35%. There is an over-representation of Roma minority in detention structures in Romania and Bulgaria.
Little research has been done on sport in prison so far, nethertheless there are evidences that sport and physical activity programmes can provide a meaningful vehicle through which personal and social development in inmates can be positively affected and positive social changes, skills development and rehabilitation/reintegration can be achieved.
In 1988, Uisp set, in collaboration with the Italian Justice Minister, a project known as Porte Aperte (Open Doors). The project has developed a comprehensive program committed to promote in all the Italian prisons a wider participation of the prison population in physical activities. Activities developed in the project were focused around three main themes: sport as vehicle to build or rebuild physical and psychological skills; sport as a safety place where to learn self-discipline, respect for rules and roles, socialization; sport associations as reference points and opportunity for settling down in the local community. The project has achieved very good outcomes and high level of participation.
The SPIRITS (Skills Improvement of Prison Inmates Through Sport Education) project will transfer UISP know how in using sport in prison to four EU partner countries: Bulgaria, Romania, Greece to address the problem of inadequate support to prison population.