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 School of Economics
  • Univ Utrecht


This paper 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 towards staff). Extending prior qualitative prison-level studies which find that nature contact influences prisoners’ self-reported wellbeing, it utilizes GIS mapping to generate a new prison greenspace dataset, 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 wellbeing, 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 wellbeing in custodial environments, and have the potential to significantly influence future prison design. The paper also provides important new insights demonstrating links between greenspace and wellbeing which have significance beyond the specifics of carceral environments.


Original languageEnglish
JournalAnnals of the American Association of Geographers
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 30 Jul 2020