Francesca Joy | Prisons

Francesca Joy is the founder of Imagine if Theatre Company. She created a play called ‘You Forgot The Mince’ and in it, a character goes to prison. To make this play Francesca spent time visiting prisons, working with prisoners, speaking to prison guards and other groups who do rehabilitative work with prisoners.

She knows a lot about the prison system.

Last year she won Arts Council funding and now takes her drama workshops into prisons. She runs these workshops to help offenders build confidence and reflect on crimes they committed. She really enjoyed reading what you all had to say about prison, punishment and rehabilitation.


You said…wold-academysq

How do people feel when they’re in prison?

By Scoobydoo8 | Wold Academy


Francesca responded…francesca-joy


As I haven’t personally been sent to prison
I am unable to answer this as truthfully as an ex-offender would.
However, from spending a lot of time with offenders and ex-offenders in and out of prisons, here are some of the thoughts and feelings they have described to me.

Some have described being in prison similar to when a television signal has gone and that fuzzy screen comes up, that’s what it feels like for them. Then when they are released, all the television channels come back on and everything is moving much quicker than before. It can feel really overwhelming being released.

Lonely, frustrating, scary.

Having to put a mask on every single day in front of the other prisoners and even the prison officers, to not let your guard down at all.

You cannot show any emotion while locked up, otherwise you are seen as being ‘weak’, so all your emotions are bottled up. Therefore the most common emotion that comes out is anger, resulting in anger issues once released.

The main concern for the majority of them is being away from their family and friends, this is what they struggle with the most.

A lot of prisoners talk positively about the routine they have in prison and how it helps them get through their sentence.

Francesca Joy and co-performer Ashley Gerlach run drama workshops for prisoners in Yorkshire.
Francesca Joy and co-performer Ashley Gerlach run drama workshops for prisoners in the UK.

You said…edward-heneage

We at Edward Heneage think that prisoners should
have the opportunity to
start a new life and a new job after prison. We can do this by rehabilitation and allowing them to learn new skills, teaching them to accept consequences and showing them the right path to follow.

The Burnet News Club Members at Edward Heneage.


Francesca responded…francesca-joy

Hi all at Edward Heneage, I agree with your views and this is what my company, Imagine if Theatre Company, is all about; we aim to improve people’s lives through educating them on social and economic issues.


You said…MA_Badge Artwork

Should prison be a rewarding experience?

By RavenclawReporter, Malcolm Arnold Academy



Francesca responded…francesca-joy

Personally I do not believe prison should be a rewarding experience, the criminal justice system is there for a reason and it protects each and every one of us in our day to day lives. However I do strongly believe there should be a more solid focus on rehabilitation within prisons, with internal and external organisations working closer together to work in unison, supporting people entirely on their rehabilitative journey.

You said…upton-cross-primary-school 

Personally I think rehabilitation is an excellent idea. Punishing someone
for being a drug addict won’t really benefit them however, if you guide and support them it’s more likely for them to give up on drugs such as nicotine, than to stay in a prison cell for a couple of years. 

By Arsenal’s smashing blogger, Upton Cross primary school

Francesca responded…francesca-joy

I think this is a really good argument for rehabilitation within prisons; you touch upon the enormity of cause and effect and how one issue will have a knock on effect on another. From my experience of working with offenders, I have found that one of the key factors in staying out of prison and living a crime free life is for them to have stability. A lot of prisoners are released from prison without having stable accommodation to return to which is extremely detrimental to their rehabilitative journey.

You said…wold-academysq

Prison should be a place of rehabilitation because punishment doesn’t teach people to become a better person. If you teach them to become a better and law abiding person and you give them a second chance, you can give them more time to learn and this doesn’t break up family connections like the punitive way.

By Harry Potter Fan, Wold Academy

Francesca responded…francesca-joy

From research conducted, one of the main factors in reducing re-offending is having and maintaining strong family ties whilst in prison and post-release. I have attached a document to help you further understand the importance of this, download it here: investing-in-family-ties-2



  1. Oasis Academy Don Valley Oasis Academy Don Valley

    I think Francesca is interesting because i have never thought about being in prison and doing drama with prisoners.

    Energetic Editor

  2. Oasis Academy Don Valley Oasis Academy Don Valley

    doing drama with prisoners is an amazing idea because it will make an amazing thing

  3. Elaine Primary Academy Elaine Primary Academy

    Doing drama with prisoners i think it is good idea and i think it would be a great chance for the prisoners to have a nice time.

    Priceless Bunnie

  4. Elaine Primary Academy Elaine Primary Academy

    What are prisoners likely to experience during their time in prison?


  5. St Peter's Primary School St Peter's Primary School

    Wow, Francesca! Your role sounds really interesting. The part about the reason the prisoners’ anger reasons are really thought-provoking; yet it makes total sense now of why they are angry.

  6. Elaine Primary Academy Elaine Primary Academy

    I think that working with prisoners is a great chance to see how they thinking and how they feel. That can help them very much with communicating and sharing their opinion with other people.Perhaps helping some of them with getting good again.