How design can cease prisoners reoffending

We take a look inside InHouse, the social initiative that’s a “different kind of record label” – with the reoffending rate of participants at less than 1%

Based on principles of co-creation and founded with the very real spectre of adversity in mind, InHouse records was established in 2017 as a “different kind of record label” that acts as a social initiative with one main goal: to prevent reoffending. It was created by Neil Sartorio and Judah Armani, and came out of Armani’s interest in the use of design in prisons while studying at the Royal College of Art.

Billed as a “rehabilitative record label for change”, InHouse has been operating in and out of UK prisons across the South East of England over the last five years, and saw Armani bring together his background working in both design and music. Initially, the plan hadn’t been to focus on music at all – in fact, it was something he’d wanted to avoid. “I was really aware that the industry is unregulated in the sense that anyone can become a manager, anyone can do this,” says Armani. “Sometimes it can be great, and sometimes it can be toxic  – the last thing I wanted was for the guys to leave an environment of crime and go into a toxic environment that’s in some ways worse.”

Armani held aspirations of using design to “facilitate society to make better choices”, he says. “I was really questioning the rationale of where design can play a role in things like the criminal justice system. It started with the premise of ‘can design contribute to reducing reoffending’?”

All images: Courtesy of InHouse records, 2021/22

Armani initially spent a lot of time visiting prisons to ”understand a little bit about the guys there and the different stakeholders”; offering things like lessons on “creative thinking” for free. He proposed the idea of working with a different group of people  each week to work collaboratively on a project. “In prison, you have a choice if you want to go to work every day, or if you want to go to lessons every day, or if you just want to sit in your cell every day, and education and employment are massively unengaged with,” he explains. 

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