Whole prison approach would reduce inmate violence, Birmingham lecturers suggest

Research by University of Birmingham Law School lecturers suggests that a ‘whole prison approach’ to ‘anti-victimisation’ will help to counter violence in prisons.

Picture of a man holding some bars and looking out

Dr Kate Gooch and Dr James Treadwell spent nine months working with staff and prisoners in a young offender’s institution to produce their ground-breaking research - Prison Bullying and Victimisation, in which they found that inmate violence is widespread and a largely ‘taken for granted’ aspect of prison life.

 “Only strong leadership and a whole prison approach can counter the rapidly changing dynamics of prison victimisation,” Dr Kate Gooch said.

“Punishment alone will not stop perpetrators victimising others. Rather than a focus on punishment, the emphasis must be on rehabilitation and on supporting attitudinal and behavioural change.”

Dr Gooch and Dr Treadwell’s research also found that technological, operational, and social changes have rapidly altered the dynamics of within prisons, and offers a unique insight into the illicit sub rosa economy of illegally smuggled mobile phones and ‘legal highs’ that sustains prison victimisation. 

Nick Hardwick, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons, recently described UK prisons as being at their “worst levels in ten years” suggesting that overcrowding and staff shortages, as well as the increasing use of ‘legal highs’, which he called “the biggest threat to our prisons”, have all massively contributed to rising levels of violence.

Dr James Treadwell said: ‘High levels of violence and bullying are not inevitable, but will not be reduced without a national focus on anti-victimisation across the entire prison estate’.

In September, Dr Kate Gooch and Dr James Treadwell presented a successful public lecture based on their findings entitled, ‘The New Dynamics of Bullying and Victimisation amongst Young Men in Custody.’