THE power of yoga, music and poetry were harnessed in an event at a Dorchester prison designed to improve health and help cut the rates of reoffending.

Inmates at HMP Dorchester attended the health day, which included information stands with advice on traditional healthcare as well as using alternative therapy to boost health.

The event was a collaboration between the prison and the Dorset Primary Care Trust (PCT) and organisers say it was so successful, they hope to take it into other prisons in the county.

Governor of HMP Dorchester, Gavin O’Malley said: “It is the first time we have undertaken an initiative like this and we were quite pleased at the number of prisoners who took part.

“The idea was to try and get more of them interested in their own health, because that reduces physical and mental health problems, which is one of the key ways of reducing reoffending rates.”

He added: “We are keen to work more in partnership with the PCT, as it’s a valuable service in reducing the risk to the public.”

Julie Trent, services manager at the PCT Dorset Prisons Cluster, said the day was as much about raising awareness as offering health advice.

“We had stands about dental hygiene, sexual health, blood pressure and mental health. We see this as an ongoing process, not just a one-off advice session, so we were taking referrals for various things.”

She added: “One of our nurses is quite into the spiritual side of health, so we set up an area where people could go and listen to soft music, relax and learn about meditation.

“People from the chaplaincy also came along.”

Other organisations represented included the Salvation Army, the Samaritans, Dorset Yoga and the Light and Energy Centre.

Education was also a key part of the day, said Mr O’Malley.

He said: “We have just changed our education provider, who are concentrating on traditional literacy and numeracy, as well as an IT curriculum, which is what the government wants us to focus on.

“This is important, because a lack of education means a lack of employment opportunities, which often means a return to crime, but it has left a bit of a gap in expressive academic subjects “We’ve been working with charities to get our prisoners doing creative writing and poetry, which gives them constructive things to do in their cells, and the health day gave us a chance to showcase some of this work.”