Prisoners Sharing the Light

Prisoners Sharing the Light

Sara Downham-Lotto – 2020-21

Based on the success of Arts Lab’s Great Prison Art Exchange and in response to the Covid crisis, in April 2020, we launched a voluntary pilot project Prisoners Sharing the Light, working with 20 vulnerable male prisoners at Dartmoor prison. Phase 2 of the project, funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, started in August of the same year, addressing the immediate need of prisoners adapting to contact restrictions, solitarily locked up in cells up to 23 hours a day. Prisoners Sharing the Light provides creative outlet and time-passing activities under lockdown, thus reducing increased issues of isolation and anxiety amongst male prisoners.

Main aims are to:

  • Use art as a means for male prisoners to stay safe, occupied and positive.
  • Provide opportunity for expression and to offload anxiety.
  • Reduce instances of suicide, self harm and depression.
  • Uplift in-cell spaces with weekly posters.
  • Further strengthen Arts Lab’s working partnership with HMP Dartmoor.

‘At this time, we have developed a huge number of in-cell activities for the prisoners. Arts Lab’s ‘Sharing the Light’ is the one thing we do that allows the prisoners to express themselves freely, that isn’t ticking boxes in exercise books and helps them to offload anxieties such as missing family. There is no question, that it is helping to reduce incidents of self-harm and suicide inside the prison already, creating an overall sense of calm and positivity in the prison environment.’

Danny Branley – Head of Learning Skills & Employment HMP Dartmoor

‘Glad to hear you’re getting lots of feedback from the prisoners. With the elderly population, mental health and staff shortages, it must be especially hard for them right now. Keep up the good work.’

Member of the public.

Further reading & more art :

Dartmoor Magazine article Sharing the Light at HMP Dartmoor (Spring edition 2021)

Devon Live article Dartmoor prisoners are finding their voice through art (28th Dec. 2020)

Online exhibition Shared Purpose Shared Hope.

Journal post Forgotten. Not Forgotten.


Artist, Mental Health, Offender rehabilitation & prisons