Prisoners create artwork to help with mental health

Unlocked artwork - face Image copyright Soft Touch Arts
Image caption The exhibition features artwork from inmates at three Leicestershire prisons

Artwork by former and serving prisoners is being exhibited as part of a project to look at the effects of art on their mental health.

The pieces in the Unlocked exhibition have gone on display at the New Walk Museum in Leicester.

They include paintings and drawings on various themes that have been created by inmates at HMP Leicester and Stocken and the now closed Glen Parva prison.

Former prisoner, Darren, said art had saved him and given him "new hope".

Image caption Former prisoner Darren said painting had saved his life

The 47-year-old, who was released from Leicester prison in May after serving a six-year sentence for assault, said he used everyday experiences in his art.

"At that moment in time I was going through a difficult period in my life," he said.

"Artwork has saved me a lot. I would have probably gone back to prison, drinking and drugs.

"It's really helped me and saved my life, to be honest."

Image copyright Soft Touch Arts
Image caption The project has assessed the affect art has had on the mental health of prisoners

For the past three years, the charity Soft Touch Arts has been working with the prisoners who are in jail for crimes ranging from drug offences to domestic violence and murder.

Sally Norman, co-director of the charity, said: "Working with them [prisoners] doesn't mean to say we condone the reasons why they were in there, but if we want them to be people who can deal with being on the outside more, then this can only help with that process."

Image copyright Soft Touch Arts
Image caption The exhibition called Unlocked runs for a month at the Leicester museum
Image copyright Soft Touch Arts
Image caption The charity has worked with the Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust on the project

The project has been made possible with a £150,000 grant from Arts Council England.

The exhibition runs until 14 October.

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