Together with five European partner organisations, De Rode Antraciet obtained financial resources for the project Sports in Prison, A Plan for the Future (SPPF). The project aims at developing high quality sports programs with a better connection between the world inside and outside the prison walls.

Within the scope of this European project, specific collaborations are being set up with services, clubs, organisations, volunteers and social partners. In addition, the different research partners will develop follow-up trajectories for ex-prisoners together with external partners. This will maximise the impact on the social environment of inmates.

This Erasmus+ project is a partnership between De Rode Antraciet and 5 European partners, in particular Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Unione Italiana Sport per Tutti (UISP) Italy, United professionals for sustainable development Association (UPSDA) Bulgaria, Association for Creative social work (UKSR) Croatia, Dienst Justitiële Inrichtingen (DJI) The Netherlands. 


Although more than 1 500 000 people are imprisoned throughout Europe, these people are at risk of being socially excluded within society. We believe that prisoners are more than their criminal record. They are human and are part of society, they are citizens. Several international legislations articulate that prisoners may not be excluded from the normal services provided to society. They lose their freedom, but they retain all their other rights, including the right to have access to sport and physical activities.

Academic research emphasize that sport and physical activities contribute to a better physical and mental health. But there is another argument to organize sports activities in prisons: it is a step in the direction of social integration. By developing sport programs with a social impact and a connection with society or the ‘outside world’, prisoners will find the mental oxygen to restore faith in themselves and in others. They can work on a positive self-image and a valuable identity perception, for example by developing their talents or strengthening their relationships with others.

Scientific research shows that sport can have a positive effect on the building of character. SPPF will offer prisoners a perspective to be socially active, it is an opportunity to form friendships, to work out networks and to battle social isolation.

Sport as a step in the process of social integration and empowerment

There is a widespread trust in the ‘good of sport’. This trust goes beyond sport’s recreational benefits and its contribution to physical health enhancement. As one of today’s most visible social phenomena, sport is – to an increasing extent – associated with a variety of personal and societal outcomes clearly exceeding the sport context. Among other things, active involvement in sport has been associated with improved life skills, moral reasoning and educational performance. Sport is regarded as an ideal way to build social capital.

A variety of benefits derived from sport involvement for a prison population have been reported, such as:

  • Development of self-control,
  • Collaboration with others,
  • Learning to deal with play rules,
  • Development of self-consciousness,
  • Development of cognitive competences,
  • Education through sports,
  • Development of an identity,
  • Enjoying a victory in a positive way,
  • Experiencing joy, …

The ultimate goal of the SPPF project is to develop a European toolkit about the importance of good sport programs and the connection with the ‘outside world’, as well as formulating policy recommendations about this topic. To this end, the SPPF consortium will develop, test and implement learning areas in 5 European countries. These learning areas will be based on scientific and valid research. Using process and product evaluations, these innovative learning areas will be scientifically investigated in order to develop a toolkit and formulate policy recommendations for governments, prison directions and all stakeholders to set up good and sustainable practices on a local level within a European context.

Innovative approach

Nowadays, the potential of using sport in prison to make a connection with the outside world and organisations operating in other sectors (e.g. education, social welfare, and employment) is undervalued. However, outside prison sport-plus and plus-sport are two formats that have been proven to work towards non-sporting outcomes related to personal and social development and employability. These are essential outcomes to support reintegration in society after release from prison.

To realise such non-sporting outcomes, it is essential to collaborate with organisations operating in other sectors. The way SPPF (Sports in Prison, a Plan for the Future) will work with and towards this knowledge is very new for prison settings but at the same time very replica table in these settings (and other) all over Europe.

Within the project SPPF we will facilitate innovative partnerships between prisons, prisoners, prison staff, volunteers, social partners and sport Federations, sport/social organisations and clubs and set up follow up trajectories outside the prison walls by providing “through the gate” support. By doing this we will bring in the expertise of all these organisations and individuals into prisons and at the same time make the connection with the ‘outside world’. This is – to our knowledge – the first time this happens on a European level.

We will also give the prisoners a voice within the SPPF project. Learning from our Erasmus+ project ‘Prisoners Active Citizenship’ (PAC) (KA2, 2017-2019), a growing number of De Rode Antraciet vzw initiatives invites prisoners to participate in the development and organisation of the sports and culture activities. That participation can have different forms which can be situated in the pyramid of citizen participation (Brosens, 2018): informing, consulting, advising, co producing or empowerment. In particular at the levels of advising, co producing and empowerment individual prisoners are given responsibility.

SPPF will increase the involvement and input from prisoners in organizing activities during this project. This kind of participation is very new for prisons all over Europe. We will build further on the lessons learned of the project ‘Prisoners’ Active Citizenship’, where learning areas have been implemented to let prisoners take up a role as active citizen during their incarceration. With the SPSF project, we go one step further by making the bridge with the society and the outside world.


VUB (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) – Research groups Sport & Society (SASO) and PArticipation and Learning in Detention (PALD)

The first research group is ‘Sport and Society’ (SASO), working within the Faculty of Physical Education and Physiotherapy. SASO’s mission is to better understand the underlying mechanisms and outcomes of sporting practices. The second research group involved in the current application is the interdisciplinary ‘PArticipation and Learning in Detention’ (PALD) research group. PALD brings together academics working at the VUB from educational sciences, criminology and physical education. Their research projects focus on the active involvement of prisoners in the organisation of prison life; on participation of prisoners in formal, informal and non-formal learning (e.g. education, culture, sport activities, vocational training); on the situation of older mental ill offenders and foreign national prisoners, etc. Both research groups have built considerable expertise concerning ‘sport & detention’.

UISP (Unione Italiana Sport per Tutti)

UISP is a national association born in 1948. UISP is formally recognized by the Italian Olympic Committee as Sport Promotion Association, by the Italian Ministry of Interior as social assistance body and it is inscribed in the Italian Welfare Ministry official list of Italian social promotion organisations. UISP objectives as specified in the UISP statute are: UISP is the association of all the individuals and collective bodies who want to be protagonists in the world of sport via direct practice, training experiences, events and projects. 

UPSDA (Sdrujenie Obedineni profesionalisti za ustoichivo razvitie)

UPSDA (Sdrujenie Obedineni profesionalisti za ustoichivo razvitie) is an alliance of professionals with different backgrounds, aiming to achieve sustainable development through transfer of knowledge, skills and creative Ideas. UPSDA initiates, develops and realizes projects involving training for social outcome.

DJI (Dienst Justitiële Inrichtingen)

The ‘Dienst Justitiële Inrichtingen (DJI)’ is an agency of the Ministry Of Safety and Justice in the Netherlands. On behalf of this ministry this agency takes care of a richteous execution of sentences. DJI works strongly together with partners in the field of Justice. The DJI exploits prisons for adults, for youth, illegals and TBS kliniks. The DJI has more than 80 offices. More than 15.000 people work here, so DJI is one of the larger employers in the Netherlands. The number of individual prisoners on an yearly annual basis is around 60.000.

ACSW (Udruga za kreativni socijalni rad)

Association for Creative Social Work (ACSW,Udruga za kreativni socijalni rad) is a non-governmental organization founded in 1998 with the aim to use creative social work as a tool for support and guidance to the disadvantaged groups in fulfilling their potentials. In 2005 the Association ’s activities got structured into the first projects and since then we work with youth with fewer opportunities, prisoners and their families and professionals who support them. 

More info?

Please contact Bloeme van Roemburg, project supervisor: