Vox is exploring the potential of the creative arts to spark the imaginations of all those involved in rehabilitation and reintegration in criminal justice. When working with individuals in the penal system, Vox’s activities help them to find ways to engage, developing their skills and motivation and abilities to work with others. When working with prisoners and their families together, Vox Liminis strengthens and renews the family relationships critical to children, parents and carers alike, helping to reducing reoffending. Vox also seeks to engage the wider community in playing its part in supporting ex-offender reintegration.
All of this work is rooted in working together with people with convictions, their families, artists, criminal justice practitioners and other partners, building community and collaboration with perhaps unlikely collaborators.
We recognise that successful re‑entry and reintegration is a complex and multi‑directional process, not solely the responsibility of the ex/offender, but also the work of the family, community and society to which people return. We believe that to work towards a more just society through the arts, all of these very different people, cultures and institutions need to be involved in the process.
We have developed key strands of work with Criminologists at Scottish Centre for Crime & Justice Research at Glasgow University, the Scottish Prison Service, and with Families Outside. The work in each project area to date is described briefly below:
- Distant Voices is a partnership project with SCCJR, raising public awareness and supporting deeper deliberation on issues of punishment and reintegration through art-based dialogue. It involves song-writing with prisoners, former prisoners, criminal justice practitioners (prison officers and social workers) and academics in workshops called The Vox Sessions. The songs are then shared in public and professional forums, and through print and broadcast media, as a way of inviting people to connect with and think more about the human stories of returning citizens and others affected by punishment. Over 100 songs have been written in the last 18 months in prisons, with support from Scottish song-writers.
Distant Voices hosted a 3 day festival at CCA in November 2015, including Writing Wrongs – a discussion on Scottish penal culture as reflected in crime fiction, featuring Chris Brookmyre, Denise Mina, Helen Fitzgerald and Martin Cathcart Frödén; a Vox Session with members of the public writing songs with Kim Edgar and Louis Abbott in response to songs by prisoners; and In Song – the launch gig of Distant Voices: Silent Seconds EP. The gig attracted a 4* review in The Scotsman, and the project has been featured on BBC Scotland’s Janice Forsyth Show and on Sunday Morning With Ricky Ross, as well attracting a feature in the Daily Record and numerous plays of the EP tracks on BBC’s Roddy Hart Show and Another Country.
- KIN is a project designed in partnership with Families Outside, working initially with 10 young people affected by parent or sibling imprisonment to share their experiences by creating work with artists. KIN is currently developing plans to release their work to date, and invite other key actors into their creative conversation on family imprisonment.
- In Tune supports family relationships while a parent is in prison through creative arts. In Tune (again with Families Outside) is a project that brings the imprisoned parent, their children and primary carer together for whole‑family music making in prison.
- Unbound is an evolving collective of people involved in Vox outside of the more structured projects above. This includes a growing community of former prisoners (who have taken part in Vox music projects inside), criminologists, musicians, practitioners and interested others who meet together weekly for food and song-writing. It also involves a monthly reading group and skill-sharing sessions (training and development), led by those who are part of the Vox community, as well as informal meetings and support with former prisoners.