Improving the Prison Environment: HMP Brixton and the RAS

When prison spaces are designed to foster personal change and hope, they are more likely to reduce re-offending and prison violence.

Over the last 2 years we have been exploring new ways to use our painting and decorating expertise to enhance spaces within the prisons. Our project ““Improving the Prison Environment” was initially piloted in HMP High Down has been recently repeated in HMP Brixton to brighten up the visitors area.

The projects are co-created with the prisoners and an artist together developing themes and informative illustrations that the prisoners would value.

In Brixton the creative for the main Visitor’s Area took inspiration from our association with the Royal Astronomical Society with whom we are running astronomy and STEM education alongside our core curriculum. Our programme “See beyond the Prison Wall” brings the study of astronomy and the wider universe to prisoners to help them to explore their place in the universe, see beyond their current circumstances and start to think outside the prison walls.

With the guidance and direction of Fellows including two acclaimed astronomers : Andreu Font-Ribera (Lecturer in Cosmology at UCL and Ernest Rutherford Fellow) and Tom Kitching (Reader in Astrophysics at UCLs Mullard Space Science Lab and Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society) Federica created an amazing “Astronomical Wall” featuring Galaxies and Skies.

The dark blue Galaxy wall transitions to a light blue engaging, interactive solar system in the children’s area where children can move the elements  around and learn about the sky.  Additionally portraits and quotes from famous astronauts are incorporated into the murals with information imparting key facts on the galaxy – everyone unique and different.


At the start of the visitor journey a “Magic forest” has been created featuring hidden animals, fairy doors and even the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland  with the aim of  providing an engaging distraction to reduce the impact on children of the experience of visiting prison and going through the security scanners.


In a holding area the “Information Wall” details the activities open to inmates giving families an insight into what sort of courses, help and training is available in the prison.   A favourite image of ours is that of “Story book dads” depicting a story recorded into a microphone linking to a child in bed…


On exit “Goodbye” is scripted in a variety of languages. The visitors journey is completed, having hopefully been enhanced by this long lasting legacy.

Our thanks to artist Federica Ciotti, pictured here holding Jupiter from the Interactive Solar Wall.


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