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Tackling the Stigma: Reducing Reoffending One Pass at a Time

As part of our #UoNinterntakeover Audrey Reber, second year Criminology and Social policy student, provides a commentary on her views on the role Rugby plays in reducing reoffending.


It may come as a surprise after that rugby-pun-filled title, but I understand very little about the sport. However, even with my limited knowledge, I can see how important sports-based intervention programmes are for young people in prison and society as a whole. Howard Becker’s Labelling Theory argues that those carrying the title of ‘offender’ are subjected to so much societal stigma that they may begin to embrace this label as their identity, and in believing they will always be seen as an ‘offender’, commit crime and hinder their rehabilitation[1].

This is where rugby comes in. Whether it be watching a game, having a friend or relative who played or participating in it yourself, rugby can be considered a common feature of ordinary people’s lives. Luke, who was recently released from prison, described his experience of engaging in a 3Pillars Project rugby-based intervention programme saying;

"They spoke to me like a human being because I am a human being".

Through playing rugby with people in prison, we can continue this effect by showing them humanity and acceptance and treating them like the regular human beings they are.

We, unfortunately, can’t change all of society’s negative attitudes towards people with convictions or quickly raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility which allows for children as young as ten to be labelled as ‘criminal’. But through treating people with convictions as human beings by playing rugby with them, we can reduce the stigma, empowering them to reject their socially prescribed label of ‘offender’ to become successful and fulfilled law-abiding members of society. This can help to not only limit the number of young people repeatedly recycled through the criminal justice system but can create a safer society through reducing reoffending.

[1] Cook, A. and Haynes, S., 2020. Imprisonment pains, re-entry strains, and perceived likelihood of reoffending. Criminal Justice Studies, [online] pp.4-5. Available at:,likelihood%20of%20reoffending%20upon%20release [Accessed 4 February 2021].

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