Does nature contact in prison improve wellbeing? Mapping land cover to identify the effect of greenspace on self-harm and violence in prisons in England and Wales

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


External organisations

  • Utrecht University


This article presents crucial new evidence that prisons with a higher proportion of the area within their perimeter given over to natural vegetation exhibit lower levels of self-harm and violence (both between prisoners and toward staff). Extending prior qualitative prison-level studies that find that nature contact influences prisoners’ self-reported well-being, it uses geographic information systems mapping to generate a new prison greenspace data set, capturing—for a cross section of prisons in England and Wales—the percentage of greenspace within their perimeters. Econometric estimations confirm that greenspace fosters prisoner well-being, in that there are lower levels of self-harm and violence in prisons with more greenspace. These relationships are statistically robust, and they persist when we control for prison size, type, age, and level of crowding. These findings are noteworthy in that they both extend understandings of well-being in custodial environments and have the potential to significantly influence future prison design. The article also provides important new insights demonstrating links between greenspace and well-being that have significance beyond the specifics of carceral environments.


Original languageEnglish
JournalAnnals of the American Association of Geographers
Early online date22 Feb 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Feb 2021