Skip to content

Therapeutic Community

The Therapeutic Community at HMP Dovegate is a purpose built 200 bed facility with four 40 bed Communities, a 20 bed Induction Unit and a 20 bed Therapeutic Community plus for those with learning disabilities/low IQ.

What is Therapeutic Community and who is it for?

What is Therapeutic Community (TC)?

The TC is a long term, accredited intervention aimed at reducing risk related to offending. TCs are based on the idea that people living together and belonging to a community are able to change through their interpersonal experiences of each other. There are formal therapy groups each day but therapy is happening all of the time, all day every day, not just during the group meetings.

All aspects of life on the community are designed to enable personal growth and are open for discussion. HMP Dovegate is a Democratic TC which means that all members of the community (staff and prisoners) have a say in the running of the community and are involved in the decision making for their community.

Prisoners are known as residents in the TC and are encouraged to build positive relationships with staff as well as other residents.

Prisoners have to have motivation to change. TC is not an easy option…

“If someone is thinking of applying for TC they should think about it long and hard. They need to know how difficult it is gonna be. They need to be mentally prepared for it” Resident A.

The minimum time required to participate in TC is 24 months. Prisoners will spend a period of time (up to 8 weeks) on the Induction Unit where they will become more familiar with the ethos of a therapeutic community. Assessment then takes place on a community and lasts for between 8-12 weeks. If TC is found to be a suitable intervention for the individual, he will remain on that community, if not he will return to his sending establishment.

Who is TC for?

The TC is for prisoners who have had issues with managing their emotions, coping or problem solving, relationship problems, or their attitudes and beliefs have caused them problems. The TC is a mixed TC; it accepts prisoners with a range of offences. Most of the prisoners in TC are serving long sentences for mostly violent offences.

What is Therapeutic Community plus (TC+)?

HMP Dovegate TC has one of only three TC+ communities in the prison system, and is co-commissioned by the National Health Service (NHS) and National Offender Management Service (NOMS).

The TC+ community is called ‘Venture’. It is a 20 bed community for prisoners with learning disabilities who have an IQ between 60-80. It is based upon the same principles of a regular TC but contextualised for the LD population. It utilises semi structured and unstructured groups and adopts a multi modal approach to group delivery, using audio and visual aids.

Creative methods are also used such as role play, art materials and cue cards.

TC+ is a longer process than mainstream TC, taking a minimum of three years. Assessment for TC+ takes place on the Community.

How do you apply for TC?

Application criteria

Each prospective TC resident must:

  • Be a life sentence prisoner (either mandatory or discretionary) or determinate sentence prisoner with at least 18 months left to serve (such period shall be calculated as the time between the Referral Date and that residents’ parole eligibility date).

  • Have volunteered to transfer to the TC.

  • Be Category B and only in exceptional circumstances will a Category C prisoner be considered.  

  • Not have been on the E list or have been a Category A Prisoner for a minimum of twelve months prior to the Referral Date. TC eligibility will be informed by recommendations made within the Prisoner’s Category A review. 

  • Not be on an open ACCT; have been on an open ACCT; or have an incident of self-harm; for a minimum of 3 months prior to arriving to the TC. This will be reviewed on an individual basis. 

  • Not be on a substance related detox programme at the time of referral.

  •  No recent drug use, or drug dealing: This is measured by checking the individual’s drug record. In cases where an individual has a history of serious substance dependency (for example class ’A’ drug use) a period of at least 6 months abstinence may be required.

  •  Not be appealing against conviction or sentence at the referral date and must show evidence of accepting responsibility for their offence.

  •  Not be prescribed psychotropic or opiate medication at the Referral Date. 

  •  Not be exhibiting active major mental illness or awaiting transfer to a secure hospital. 

  •  Not be diagnosed as an unstable diabetic or epileptic at the Referral Date.

  •  Not have an index sexual offence or outstanding treatment needs relating to sexual offending. 

  • Whilst on the Therapeutic Community, residents are required to complete a minimum of 3 months assessment; at least 18 months in core therapy continually; and engage in a 6 month ending phase. 

  • Residents will be made aware that, until they have successfully completed their time in therapy, it would be unlikely for them to be supported for progression by the TC staff at parole oral hearings or in reports. 

  • Residents should make every effort to show a minimum of 4 months stable behaviour prior to arriving to the TC. This will be reviewed on an individual basis. 

  • Residents will be made aware that should they withdraw or be deselected from the Therapeutic Community within the first six months, they will return to their sending establishment. 

What is the regime and is TC for me?


Prisoners, or residents as they are known on the TC, will take part in either Therapy Groups, Education or Community based work.  Each day A ‘thoughts and feelings’ meeting will take place where the whole community, including staff and residents, meet for the residents to talk about how they are feeling, if they have something going on, or if anything is bothering them. Following this meeting there are either Small groups, Community Meetings or activities.

The Small Group gives residents the opportunity to talk about their lives and offending in detail, exploring their thoughts, feelings and experiences. The groups have up to ten residents and at least one staff facilitator.

The Community Meetings are an opportunity for the whole community to discuss anything concerned with life on the community. These meetings are agenda based and chaired by the community chairman, who is a resident. Any member of the community can put something on the agenda to be discussed.

Special groups or meetings can be called if there is an urgent issue that needs addressing.

Residents have access to a gym (3 gym sessions and 1 football session a week), Library, Multi faith Chaplaincy team and services, and an annual arts festival. There are also opportunities for residents to engage in complementary therapies such as art therapy and drama therapy.

Each Community hold up to four family days each year, these sometimes include families visiting the community and seeing where the resident lives.

Residents journey in therapy

Resident D

"My life before coming to Dovegate was very different. I was still blaming everyone else for my mistakes. Still using anger and aggression to try to keep control of everything around me and still hating myself. I had lost my family because I lied to them about what happened on the night of the offence and about who I was… All I did and all I’ve ever done is think about myself and what I want. I thought it (TC) would be an easy way to get what I wanted. Talk about my offence, look at my childhood, then go back get the thumbs up and move on. But it hasn’t worked out that way. 

I used to hate myself, so I built up a façade/ external armour to protect myself. I used anger and aggression to try and maintain control of the things around me. Since being here and looking at all these things and breaking down that façade, I’ve been able to be the real me and build up an internal armour. I started to like myself and who I am. I accepted myself and therefore didn’t feel the need to look for that acceptance in others, which had led to me getting into situations and relationships that have been detrimental to both me and the people around me.

Although I now feel better within myself and I’ve built up relationships with my family that I never thought I would have, I still struggle with what I have done. Having to talk about all the things I’ve done wrong in my life, no matter how many times I go through it, it is still difficult. Having taking responsibility for my actions and knowing I’m the only one to blame for things I’ve done isn’t something I’ll ever be able to let go of.

The guys and the facilitators in my small groups have given me the space and support to look at and understand my life and myself."  

Resident E

“My time on the TC has helped me to take full responsibility for my actions leading up to and during my index offence. By taking responsibility, it has enabled me to look at the dysfunctional and scared person I was and the way I used to deal with the day to day stresses of life and relationships. This has helped me to make changes to the way I deal with all relationships. Hopefully, if I’m given a second chance and released the skills that I have learned on the TC will help me on release” 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the Therapeutic Community (TC) full of sex offenders?

No. The TC is a mixed TC. There are a small number of Sex offenders but the majority of prisoners are serving long sentences for mostly violent offences.

Do you have to be a ‘grass’ to do TC?

No. The TC does not encourage ‘grassing’.

What happens in TC?

Prisoners, or residents, live as part of a community. They take part in therapy groups and meetings to discuss their lives and offending and also about life on the community.

How many prisoners are in a small group?

There are up to ten residents and at least one staff facilitator in each small group.

How many prisoners are on each wing?

Each wing, or Community as they are known as on TC, can house 40 residents

What are the communities like?

The communities are much smaller than the main wings. The atmosphere is more relaxed and supportive. Violence or intimidation is not tolerated and is challenged by residents and staff.

Is TC segregated from the Main prison?

Yes, mostly. There is mixing at Healthcare and in Multi Faith services.

What is the regime?

Unlock and lock up times are the same as the main prison. In mornings Therapy groups take place. In the afternoon there is Education and community based work- cleaners, laundry and servery work.

Where do TC have visits?

TC has its own visits hall, it is smaller, has unfixed furniture and a more informal atmosphere. Normal visits rules and procedures apply. See Visitors page for times and guidance.

Can I still get my Cat C if I go to TC?

The Re-Cat system is the same as the main prison.

Is TC easy?

No. TC is not an easy option. It can be very difficult and challenging. It takes a lot of hard work and effort but the reward is worth it.

Can I be forced to do TC?

No. TC is a voluntary process. It may be put on your Sentence Plan to be assessed for if appropriate. The parole board may ask about this. If you come to TC for assessment and TC is found not suitable, it can be taken off your sentence plan.