Intended for healthcare professionals

Views & Reviews Review of the Week

Art on the inside

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 20 April 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d1919
  1. Colin Martin, independent consultant in healthcare communication, London
  1. cmpubrel{at}

Prisoners’ creativity can reflect their lack of wellbeing and provides an outlet for their angst, finds Colin Martin, reviewing two shows

Dose, 2009, detail with full ashtray


Two exhibitions show how art workshops are currently being deployed in UK prisons to help inmates reflect on their lives, improve their wellbeing, and prepare for their release. The provocatively titled exhibition Girls Behind Bars: Female Experiences of Justice presents work by prisoners at Holloway Prison and other women, supported by the national mental health charity Together. It also includes work by female participants in a National Galleries of Scotland outreach programme at Greenock Prison. Girls Behind Bars focuses on the mental health of female prisoners. Pharmacopoeia, a collaborative group comprised of the general practitioner Liz Lee and the artists Susie Freeman and David Critchley, gained insights into the health problems of female prisoners from the prison medical service at Holloway. “We learned that mental health and drug addiction are huge issues which eclipse everything else,” recalled Lee. “High proportions of inmates are prescribed antipsychotics and antidepressants, and use of pain killers and sleeping tablets is also high.”

Pharmacopoeia’s installation, Dose, …

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