InHouse Records: Award-winning Social Impact from RCA Service Design

InHouse Records is the UK’s first record label to be launched in a prison, but beyond that, it’s also a vehicle for transforming lives. The scheme – established by Service Design alumni Judah Armani while he was still a student at the RCA – is a fully functioning record label, set to release its first tracks next year.

Currently active in seven UK prisons, InHouse offers transferable work skills, employment opportunities and support both on the inside and upon release – with management, marketing, recording, producing and performing roles at the label all undertaken by prisoners.

Part of Public, Judah Armani’s wider social design practice, InHouse rehabilitates prisoners through creating a safe and motivational environment in which they can repurpose skills and learn new competencies that are applicable across diverse employment opportunities. The project was shortlisted for the 2018 D&AD Impacts Awards and was a Gold Winner at the London Design Awards 2018 in the Service Design Community category.

InHouse Records operates at the intersection of design thinking, social change and enterprise, and has started to have real social impact – decreasing violence in prisons and helping to reduce reoffending.

The Service Design MA Programme at the RCA was instrumental in supporting the project, equipping Judah with the design tools and methodologies to make it a success:

‘The RCA’s role has been critical – there would not be InHouse without RCA support,’ Judah explained. ‘The project demonstrates the value and importance of Service Design as design. InHouse is carefully put together with the same attention to detail that would be put into crafting the design of an object or something visual.’

Dr Nick de Leon, Head of Programme for Service Design commented: ‘InHouse Records is a fantastic example of service design being used to co-create a service for prisoners, with prisoners, and is demonstrating the value of design-led innovation to tackle complex social issues. The Service Design MA Programme at the RCA examines complex systemic issues facing business and governments, and applies design thinking to real world contexts, helping to transform consumer and public services.’

The record label is fully functioning, with the first tracks to be released in 2019, distributed and marketed with support from Universal Music. Judah stresses that while the music created through InHouse is an important part of the story, it is not the whole story. More broadly the project is about social transformation, creating safe communities and reducing re-offending. This is supported through helping prisoners to develop core competencies and skills applicable across sectors and employment settings.

Outside of prison, InHouse offers the continuation of a peer support network, connecting alumni of the scheme with those just released from prison. High reoffending rates, which have a significant annual cost of £15 billion in the UK, are exacerbated by a lack of support into employment on release. InHouse addresses this, supporting participants to continue on a self-designed, self-motivated learning pathway.


Find out more about the RCA MA Service Design Programme, and how to apply.