Research to reduce stress in custody cells

Richard Hall is a retired Notinghamshire Police officer who worked as a custody sergeant and inspector for 20 years.  When he retired he undertook a degree and became a professional photographer. 

Richard’s dissertation explored the concept of using art in police cells, just as you tend to find in hospitals and prisons. Using art in police cells is an innovative idea and there is no record of it being tried before. Richard’s intention is to do follow-up research as part of his Masters degree. 

Time spent in a police cell is known to be a highly stressful and traumatic event for detainees and often for officers charged with their care who routinely have to deal with violent behaviour and incidents of self-harm. Art has been known to have a positive and calming effect on mental health in several stressful settings including hospitals, but this has never been tested in a police custody cell environment.

This study used a mixed-methods approach combining a comprehensive review of the literature with personal insights of those linked to the project, including an interview with the police project lead. The study also looked at the photograph chosen and whether the chosen image was appropriate in the circumstances. In examining the suitability of the image, the method of its selection was examined, and how people view art and make choices based on fractals, colour, subject, and content. As there is no direct research into the use of artworks in police cells, the literature review process explored the use of art in hospitals, mental institutions, and prisons, and how artworks affect people subjected to stressful situations and tasks.

Findings support the case for the inclusion of a particular style of image in a cell which may have positive mental health benefits to detainees and in turn benefit those charged with their care.

Richard has kindly given permission for his dissertation to be circulated to anyone who has an interest in this area and who might want some evidence to support their case for putting art into cells to reduce anxiety and boredom, particularly to aid vulnerable detainees.

To request access into the dissertation contact:


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