What makes the contribution of the arts so vital within the prison system is the ‘added value’ it brings to conventional educational programmes. Basic numeracy and literacy are clearly important, but what drama, creative writing, painting and music can do is to help prisoners imagine a life beyond their own experience. They cannot be expected to break out of a cycle of recidivism without making this crucial extra step. Discovering the capacity to be creative is an essential part of reshaping a life. I have witnessed this in prisoners I have worked with – a reclaiming of autonomy; a resurgence of self-belief.