Lecturer in Forensic Psychology,
University of Kent at Canterbury
This research was partially funded by the Prison Reform Trust who published a brief discussion paper based on it in 1994. Thanks go to Graham Towl and Alison Liebling for reading through the draft proposal; to Stephen Shaw for help and advice; to all those who participated, the psychology departments who helped with the day to day "baby sitting" of a researcher and to the Governors who let the researcher in to the prisons.
"Fear is abstract but it's real. Fear in prison is when they bang the door. It can be so great that it sends you off your mind. After a while, you realise that they haven't thrown away the key. You accept privation. But, it's still unnatural so you come to terms with things. That's the position."
Copyright © 1998 Joanna Adler.
First Published in Web Journal of Current Legal Issues in association with Blackstone Press Ltd.
This article draws on research conducted with 168 prisoners and 50 prison officers from five wings of three prisons that ranged in security from medium to high. Interviews elicited information about the incidence and nature of worries and fears felt by participants. The results show that the number of prisoners reporting fear (51%) was more than twice that found in the (English and Welsh) National Prison Survey (Walmsley, Howard and White, 1992). High numbers of staff (67%) also reported fear. However, the nature of the fears expressed by staff and those expressed by prisoners seemed to be different. Staff were predominantly concerned with the threat of confrontational incidents and loss of control whereas prisoners feared a range of possible situations, people and places. Incidence of fear varied between different prisons and wings within each prison.
As numerous authors have pointed out, prisons are not pleasant. At their worst, they are threatening, dangerous places (Toch 1976, 1977; Jacobs 1977; Irwin 1980 and Fleisher 1989). Indeed, Sykes (1958) originally identified fear as one of the "Pains of Imprisonment". It is uncertain whether we can ever be sure of the actual levels of intimidation, extortion and violence that exist in a prison. The stigma of being marked as a "grass" is very real and has tangible, often violent, repercussions. This may result in reluctance from those most at risk to articulate their fears to any Prison Service employees. However, there is a need at least to attempt to measure incidence of intimidation and its repercussions.
Toch (1977) argues that, "Jails and prisons...have a climate of violence which has no free world counterpart. Inmates are terrorised by other inmates and spend years in fear of harm. Some inmates request segregation, others lock themselves in and some are hermits by choice." (p 53). Fattah (1991) stated that prisoners are "disposable or expendable" victims because they are viewed by non-criminals with hostility and antagonism.
Toch (1992) concludes that the prison subculture of violence is maintained by anomie and alienation. The majority of prisoners ignore the violence that is perpetuated by the minority. Irwin (1980) and Fleisher (1989) both report on invidious gang violence and Fleisher (1989) concludes that the most common reason for assault is sex, the second is debt.
In attempting to assess the extent of systematic violent encounters, Cooley (1993) implemented a criminal victimisation survey in five federal Canadian prisons. Personal attacks and their threat (robbery, sexual assault, assault, threats and extortion) were more frequently reported than property victimisations (theft and vandalism). The most serious types of incidents accounted for the smallest percentage of reported incidents. The most common type of incident was assault and those who did not report assault reported the threat of it during the incidents recalled.
Although violence may not be manifested daily, the threat of it is to be expected and the ways that prisoners react to violence and cope with it will be associated with how they react to incarceration in general. McCorkle (1992) found that older men in a maximum-security prison displayed distinct avoidance behaviours when fearful. In contrast, younger men used the prison culture as a source of status and employed more aggressive or violent means to deter attacks. It is important to note that violence can be used as a tool to progress through a prison hierarchy as well as shield against the violence of others.(1)
In such an environment, it is not unreasonable to assume that people will feel fear. Indeed, a certain level of fear may be necessary to maintain a sufficient degree of awareness to provide self-protection. In the National Prison Survey conducted in English and Welsh prisons, Walmsley, Howard and White (1992) found that, when asked, 18% of prisoners said that they did not feel safe. Nine per cent said that they had been assaulted by another prisoner in the previous six months. Thirty-five per cent of those who were afraid, were afraid everywhere but particularly in showers and toilets. A higher proportion of Asians than of White or Black prisoners said that they had been assaulted but the difference was not statistically significant. Thirty-two per cent said that prison officers did not do enough to protect them. Those who felt safe were, unsurprisingly, those who thought that the prison officers provided security. Of those who felt scared, 33% said that they felt at risk all the time; 17% said they were scared during association and 15% said that they were fearful when they were out of sight of officers. Besides racial fears, 10% of prisoners who did not feel safe were scared of "those who think they run the prison" and "unbalanced (or) mental cases."
In 1994, the English and Welsh Prison Service produced a report that stated that 58% of prison officers had worried about their safety at some time (Prison Service, 1994). Fleisher (1989) reports that attacks on staff are rarer than those on prisoners and that officers are more likely to intervene to prevent attacks than to instigate them. In Fleisher's study, one "guard" who had worked for twenty years is quoted as saying "Violence bothers you. No one likes to see the mess or stand in the blood, but you can't talk about it that way. You have to act like it doesn't bother you" (p 231). In other words, a machismo façade is necessary to maintain control.
The above quotation is typical of much of the literature that has been applied to English and Welsh prisons in that it is actually from a system very different to our own, namely one part of the American penitentiary estate. In both philosophy and practice, it may be fair to say that theoretical models of the maintenance of order in American prisons are too different from our own to be drawn upon usefully. However, the Prison Service has incorporated elements of models from a number of systems including, Australia, Canada, The United States of America and Scandinavia within a number of recent initiatives. The research presented here was designed at the time of the first use of the Anti-Bullying Strategy and the "Rewards and Incentives" scheme within the Prison Service. This was also the time at which the Prison Service was making efforts to fulfil a Key Performance Indicator relating to time prisoners spent out of cells. During the conduct and reporting of the research, all of these programmes have been revised significantly yet something that remains constant is that levels of activity or disruption experienced within an institution are likely to be associated with fear.
This necessarily brief literature review supports the contention that violence is a usual part of prison life. It also allows one to predict that fear is likely to be present. Fear may be alleviated, if the proper support services are in place. However, without successful strategies for coping with fear, it may become unmanageable. Given the widespread use of the notion of a "crisis" in our prisons, it seems fair to predict that both officers and prisoners are afraid.
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The primary purposes of this research were relatively simple and they attempted to answer some previously unasked questions: Did prisoners and officers in the English and Welsh Prison Service feel fearful? If they did, would they admit it? What was the extent of any fears and how did they cope with such fears?
Two common methodologies that could be adopted to assess fear in prisons are the use of an anonymous questionnaire or a confidential interview. Although it is to be expected that participants will be reticent about discussing such matters within an interview, an approach relying on participant completed questionnaires was not favoured. Firstly, it is much harder to elicit detailed qualitative answers. Secondly, if literacy was a problem, then there would have been a group of prisoners who were excluded from participating and thirdly, the response rate to questionnaire studies tends to be lower than in face to face interactions. Therefore, it was decided that an interview design could be adopted successfully much as it had been in similar situations (Walmsley et al. 1992; Liebling and Krarup, 1992).
The project was designed to provide an overview of prisoner and staff fears. It was not intended to be a definitive piece of research. The aim was to add to the limited evidence that is available to date. Interviews were carried out in five wings of three adult male prisons: "Pluto", "Uranus", and "Jupiter". At Pluto, one wing was chosen and it held prisoners at the start of life sentences. At Uranus, people from two wings participated, the remand wing and the wing for Vulnerable Prisoners. At Jupiter, the two wings were identical in structure but A wing was for the most vulnerable prisoners and those who requested extra help in coping with imprisonment and D wing, was for medium to low security prisoners with a higher than normal proportion of "Rule 43" prisoners. Vulnerable Prisoner Units are relatively new to the prison service. They were phased in to cope with the increasing numbers of prisoners who were at risk on "normal" location. Such prisoners are often referred to as "Rule 43's" as they can be segregated under the terms of this rule for their own protection. They are most likely to include sex offenders, informants, people in debt and ex-police or prison officers.
On each wing, at least 30 prisoners and 5 officers were interviewed using one of two structured, open ended interview schedules. The participant samples from each wing were matched for age. At least fifteen prisoners under 30 and fifteen prisoners over 40 were interviewed on each wing. The samples chosen reflected the racial make up of each wing at both of the age groups.
The two main independent variables were the prison wing and the category of offence. The main dependent variables were levels of fear and worry in prisoners and officers. These were assessed from responses gathered in interviews.
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The selection of officers was opportunistic and the selection of the prisoners was more "scientifically" random. Having been selected, participation in the project was voluntary, confidential (although constrained by security concerns) and included the right to ask questions or withdraw at any time.
Fifty officers participated. Of these officers, four were women, 49 were white. Wherever possible, female officers and those, of either gender who were not white Caucasian, were interviewed. At least one senior officer was interviewed from each wing. The time that the participants had been an officer ranged from 1 year to 27 years. The modal time that they had been officers was 18 months. Details of the sentences and ethnicity of the prisoner participants are shown in Tables 1 & 2. The classifications used are those employed by the Prison Service computerised system.
Table 1 Types of offence of prisoner participants included in analyses.
|Property, etc.||Violence||Murder||"43 Type"|
It is not possible to list all of the offences of which the participants were accused or convicted. This is because some of them did not disclose the information to the researcher and they were listed in the records as being held on a holding warrant.
Table 2 Ethnic breakdown of sample included in analyses.
The following classifications have been adopted from those used by the Prison service.
They reflect the racial mix of the prisoners on the wings that participated.
|Nimber in survey||99||3||18||3||8||1||2||7||9|
The interview protocols that were used are available from the author. They were constructed to take into account the work of Walmsley, Howard and White (1991) and Liebling and Krarup (1992) (as mentioned above). The study was also based around Figgie's constructs of "formless" and "concrete" fear (1980). Formless fear relates to a general feeling of vulnerability whereas concrete fear is more specific. For example, by asking whether a person feels afraid at work, one may be tapping into formless fear. Whereas by asking whether a particular place has been the scene of previous incidents, the participant may be given a chance to report more fear that is concrete. Keane (1995) reports that both formless and concrete fear are affected by psychological intimidation and that they share many characteristics. It was therefore hoped that the protocols would elicit responses that were general and specific, or "formless" and "concrete".
The first few questions on each protocol were biographical and not necessarily contentious. The next section of the interviews included questions about daily interactions, then built up to questions about others' fears before dealing with the possible worries, then fears of the participant him/herself. For example, question 17 on the prisoner questionnaire allowed participants to talk about areas that may be insecure for other people. It was included as part of the attempt to deal with these matters sensitively. The last section was designed to ensure that the participant was not left feeling uncomfortable by the matters under discussion.
The opening questions on the prisoner protocol attempted to assess various contexts of fear. The next section of questions (7-17) related to the nature of interpersonal reactions between prisoners and staff. It included reference to possible problems encountered and the last question within it asked prisoners whether there were any areas that other prisoners might find to be unsafe. By question eighteen, it was hoped that a degree of confidence in the researcher would have been established and that prisoners could be asked about their own concerns and how they coped with such worries. Having spent time on those worries, the final research questions on fear were asked (question 19 in the prisoner protocol). The rest of the questions were to encourage the participants to raise any concerns brought about by the research itself and to provide ethical closure to the interviews.
The officer questionnaires were designed around the same model. First a measure of their experience was taken then their adjustment to working in a custody setting and assessments of the routines were noted. Again, the next section was concerned with their interpersonal relationships and, like the prisoners, began with the out-group. It was felt that officers would be more favourably disposed to discuss their peers had they previously discussed members of the "other side" thus questions about colleagues followed the questions about prisoners. No assessment was made of where officers felt other officers might feel unsafe. However, officers were asked where they felt that prisoners would feel unsafe. This provided information regarding officers' awareness of the concerns of those prisoners in their charge. Again, questions on the nature of any worries and fears, their severity, frequency and management were followed by a closure section.
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The questionnaires elicited qualitative data that was coded by the researcher. A random sample of the questionnaires were also rated by two other colleagues. The level of agreement was remarkably high and in cases where there was any discord, the researcher was more likely to be conservative in the coding than the co-raters. Statistical analysis was conducted using SPSS.
Although some prisoners and officers experienced problems amongst and between each other, the results of the current study show a lower incidence of prisoner problems with one another than has previously been found. Liebling and Krarup (1992) found that 66% of vulnerable prisoners and 43% of the comparison group of prisoners reported difficulties interacting with other prisoners. In the current study, 20% of prisoners reported problems with other prisoners and 26% reported problems with staff. Twenty-six per cent of staff reported problems with their colleagues and 66% reported problems with prisoners.
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When asked purely about incidence rather than type or frequency of fear or worry, 22% of prisoners reported feeling worried and 51% reported fear. Thirty-five per cent of the officers reported feeling worried and 67% of them reported fear. The results demonstrate a higher incidence of fear than could have been inferred from the National Prison Survey. The higher incidence may be related to the use of semi-structured interviews rather than forced choice questionnaires. Also, that scared prisoners may have been more likely to refuse to participate in a study carried out by the Home Office.
The participants in the current study were also asked whether their fears were general or specific. In the National Prison Survey, 33% of those who worried about their safety did so all of the time. In the current study, of those who felt scared, 13% said that they felt at risk all the time. However, this apparent discrepancy is actually a replicated finding. In the National Prison Survey, the third of concerned prisoners who were constantly worried constitutes approximately 6% of the entire sample. Within this study, the proportion is similar. Thirteen per cent of the 51% who reported fear in this research is equal to about 7% of the whole sample. Thus, the proportion of prisoners who are always afraid seems to be about the same in the two surveys. These are probably the prisoners in the greatest need of help and may well correspond with Toch's (1976, 1992) group of "high safety" prisoners.
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Where both worries and fears were reported, they tended to be of the same things. Accordingly, data from these two variables were collated in the construction of the frequency tables below. Table 3 shows where prisoners and staff feel that they are afraid. The percentages shown are proportions taken from the numbers of prisoners and officers who expressed fear or worry (in themselves or others) not from the whole sample set. The table is divided up as follows. Column 2 reports the areas that prisoners state concern other prisoners. Column 3 presents the areas that prisoners were concerned about themselves. Column 4 illustrates the areas that the officers perceive as being of concern to the prisoners and column 5 reports on those areas which were of concern to the officers themselves.
Table 3 Areas of concern in the prisons.
|PRISONERS||%age response||OFFICERS||%age response|
|Areas other prisoners fear||Areas you fear||Areas prisoners fear||Areas you fear|
|Away from officers||3||1||2||9|
|Main (from VPU)||9||1||7||-|
|Away from alarms||-||-||-||1|
|Badly lit areas||-||-||-||1|
|Depends on the offence||5||-||-||-|
|Exercise or open spaces||2||-||5||-|
|Off own wing||4||6||7||-|
|On own wing||1||-||-||-|
When prisoners were asked where they felt concerned, 25% of those who reported fear said that they were most concerned within their own cells. Thirteen per cent reported that they were generally fearful (as mentioned above) and in contrast to the previous literature, only 4% reported that they were worried or fearful in recesses or showers. However when asked where they felt that other people might be concerned, a slightly different picture emerges. Twenty-one per cent of the prisoners stated that other prisoners would be concerned either in the showers or in recesses whereas only 7% felt that other prisoners would be worried or fearful within their cells. Prisoners also highlighted the potential problems faced as they moved about or were escorted through prisons. This is particularly the case for prisoners incarcerated within a segregated wing. The differences between reported areas of personal concern and areas identified as being of concern to others imply that this group is demonstrating "pluralistic ignorance" of shared concerns (Rosenbaum and Blake, 1955).
There is also some discrepancy between the areas identified by prisoners and those identified by staff. Forty-eight per cent of the staff felt unsafe only in the context of certain situations whereas 6% of prisoners identified areas of concern in terms of the situation. Unsurprisingly, it appears that the officers felt insecure if unsupported. However, their presence did not seem to reassure prisoners. Nine per cent of officers were scared when they were out of the sight of their colleagues and only 1% of prisoners were concerned when away from the officers (3% reported that other prisoners would be concerned).
The area in which the most participants felt worried or fearful was prisoners' cells. As well as the 25% of prisoners who were worried in their cells, 9% of staff felt insecure in prisoners' cells. Whilst this may be predictable when regarding staff, it is worrying that the one place in which prisoners might be able to feel secure, their cell, is that most likely to be reported as where they feel fear. However, it is worth noting that 23% of staff felt that the prisoners would be worried or fearful in their cells. This is the area of concern for prisoners most consistently identified by the staff and it is the area most identified by prisoners.
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In the same way as there were identifiable areas that concerned participants, there were particular situations or events that they associated with fear. Here too, there is a discrepancy between officer and prisoner concerns. Sixty-five per cent of officers and 9% of prisoners were afraid of situations of which they feel they may not be in control. Seventeen per cent of the officers and 4% of the prisoners were worried about unpredictable or "mental" cases. Overall, some officers were pretty accurate about most of the prisoners' concerns with two exceptions: Twenty-two per cent of officers thought that prisoners may be worried by bullying and 7% thought that they may have problems with debt. None of the prisoners identified either bullying or debt as a problem (although see below re. assault).
Prisoners were worried by various things that included the effects of imprisonment on their families and on their own mental states. Of the factors traditionally associated with fear, for example violence or confrontation, 7% of prisoners feared or worried about assault, only 2% of prisoners were afraid of the officers and 6% of the other prisoners.
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It has been shown that prisoners and officers experience real feelings of fear. Officers' fears seem to be less location specific than prisoners. The findings imply that they are more concerned by a loss of control than where that control is lost. Although prisoners also feel fear, a substantial number (25%) of them are apparently unaware that they are not alone in feeling fear within their cells.
It would be possible to surmise that it might be particularly difficult to manage fear in prisoners. This is not simply because of the different types of fear felt, nor because of the likelihood of fear inducing circumstances but because they have little if any opportunity of withdrawal from such circumstances. Even if such withdrawal is possible, the expression of fears felt within cells may be a cause for concern. There are at least two different interpretations that can be placed on this finding. The first is relatively benign. If prisoners are afraid within their cells, at least they are feeling fear away from situations of confrontation and actual risk.
However, the second inference that may be drawn is that being behind a locked cell door can actually be one of the most dangerous situations that a prisoner experiences. From the interviews, it became clear that if someone wanted to assault another prisoner, an effective way of doing it was to be in his cell with him when the door was locked. Given the stretched resources and speed with which "locks, bolts and bars" are checked in the evenings and mornings, this is an all too feasible scenario(2).
As the example above demonstrates, the interviews revealed a number of results that reinforce the importance of examining fear as a process within an appropriate context. It is possible to conclude that some of the prisoners' fears stem from intimidation on the wings despite their lack of reference to "bullying". Twenty-two per cent of officers thought that prisoners may be worried by bullying and 7% thought that they may have problems with debt. This finding is supplemented by those in Briefing 74 which reported that 46% of officers thought that prisoners did not feel safe from being injured or bullied by other prisoners.
It is possible that the sample size was not large enough to encompass any prisoners who were afraid of being bullied at the time of the survey. Alternatively, the null finding could reflect reticence on the part of the participants to talk about such matters. However, prisoners were open about vulnerabilities and two prisoners on the Uranus Remand wing said that they had previously been bullied (although they did not report feeling fear). What is more likely, is that the finding indicates that prisoners who are frightened are more concerned with the effects of intimidation than with the label "bullying". A number of prisoners said that they were scared of things such as hot water or the knives in the kitchens. These are normal kitchen utensils, why should they be frightening?
Another pertinent finding relates to the importance of a prisoner's location. The proportion of prisoners who were fearful varied between different prisons. When fear was used as a dependent variable for a [chi]2 analysis, [lambda] showed that location accounted for 21% of the variance and p<0.01. The greatest number of fearful prisoners was found to be in Pluto (73%), then in Jupiter (54%), then in Uranus (37%). The proportion of people who were fearful also varied between different wings of the same prison. In this case, [lambda] accounted for 29% of the variance and p<0.01. Jupiter A wing held prisoners of whom 70% reported fear while D wing had a level of 40%. In Uranus, 45% of remand prisoners reported feeling scared and 30% were scared on the Vulnerable Prisoner Unit.
The wing with the highest incidence of fear was the Lifer Assessment Unit (73%). This could be because prisoners held there tend to be at the start of their life sentences, and that they hold higher security classifications than most of the others who were interviewed. As well as the young, possibly confrontational prisoners, a lifer assessment unit also holds people who have never been involved in crime before killing someone (probably someone they loved). Such prisoners would be expected to be feeling a gamut of emotions, fear amongst them.
Previously, it has been assumed that prisoners who have been segregated are the most vulnerable and need the most protection. This may be true even though this study's findings were not that clear. Although the life-sentenced prisoners reported the highest incidence of fear, 70% of the vulnerable prisoners on Jupiter A wing also reported fear. This would seem to support previous findings regarding this particular group of prisoners. However, prisoners on Uranus VPU reported the lowest incidence of fear.
The difference in fear incidence between Jupiter A wing and Uranus Vulnerable Prisoner Unit was unpredicted as well as sizeable. Seventy per cent of Jupiter A wing prisoners were scared while 30% were scared on the Uranus Vulnerable Prisoner Unit yet both wings are for vulnerable prisoners. However, Jupiter A wing prided itself on not being an official "VPU" and was not fully segregated from the rest of the prison. The management were trying to integrate the prisoners more fully into normal routines. They did not seem to be totally successful. Prisoners on Uranus Vulnerable Prisoner Unit tended to be concerned about having to travel between the main prison and the secure unit. These findings suggest that vulnerable prisoners would feel safer if they could be kept completely segregated.
In trying to explain the disparate findings, interpersonal relationships do appear to be important. However, the direction of their effects on fear and whether they are mediated by other variables are unclear. It would seem logical to assume that the wings with the greatest frequency of problems would be those wings with the highest incidence of fears. Indeed, the wings with the highest incidence of fear had a relatively high number of problems. Yet, both prisoner and officer participants from the wing with the lowest incidence of fear reported the most frequent problems within and outside their peer group.
It is important to note that most prisoners (other than those in the "high safety" group) do not let fear take over their daily existence; they cope with it. The ways in which prisoners and officers cope with fear and their means of controlling it are presented and discussed below. The main information sought was whether prisoners and officers used avoidance procedures to minimise their exposure to risk.
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There were no significant differences in measures taken to cope with fear between prisoners from different wings or who had been convicted of different offences. Thus, the coping measures that they employed have been collated and are shown in Table 4. Many prisoners either do not employ coping strategies or are unwilling or unable to divulge them. Answers from the prisoners who did report using coping strategies suggest that the most popular ones involve busying themselves in diversionary activities and only eight prisoners reported turning to others for help.
Table 4 Coping strategies employed by prisoners (all numbers are actual).
|COPING STRATEGY||NUMBER OF PRISONERS|
|Just accept it or do nothing||25|
|Paint, read, write, listen to radio||23|
|Pray or meditate||11|
|Put on a front or be positive||3|
|Keep my head down||3|
|Stay on the wing||3|
|Tell a member of staff||2|
|Smoke or smoke a joint||2|
|Hit something or scream and fight||2|
|Work out how to avoid it again||1|
Prisoners were also asked to make suggestions for change that would enable or remove the need for coping with fear. Their responses are illustrated in Table 5 below. Although many of the prisoners did not make suggestions about future strategies, 43 of them did propose changes with an emphasis on interactions with other people.
Table 5 Suggestions for improvements made by the prisoners (all numbers are actual).
|SUGGESTION FOR IMPROVEMENT||NUMBER OF PRISONERS|
|Nothing or don't know||27|
|Improve segregation (for safety)||7|
|Increase prisoner involvement and responsibility||6|
|Train the officers to be more understanding||4|
|Carefully select all prisoners for their wings||4|
|Change the atmosphere||3|
|Stop mind games or leave us alone||3|
|Make probation and psychology more accessible||2|
|Give us treatment (medical)||2|
|More time with families or with outside organisations||2|
|Give us a fixed date or sort out parole||2|
|Give board of visitors independence||1|
|Cameras on landings and in segregation (punishment)||1|
|Don't segregate us||1|
The officers also utilised a number of strategies for coping with their worries. Only one officer directly mentioned improving relationships with the prisoners but nearly all of their techniques were socially based. Unlike the prisoners, they did not favour doing something else and tended to mention the importance of interpersonal skills. However, in common with the prisoners, officers' suggestions for improvements had significant resource implications. Their techniques for managing fear and their suggestions for improvement are outlined in the two tables below:
Table 6 Coping strategies employed by the officers (all numbers are actual).
|COPING STRATEGY||NUMBER OF OFFICERS|
|Talk (7 to partners, 1 to the care team)||8|
|Depends on situation||5|
|Just cope or put on a front||5|
|Break the tension, joke||4|
|Have confidence in self and others||2|
|Go over what went wrong||2|
|Build relationships with prisoners||1|
|Get other officers||1|
Table 7 Suggestions for improvements made by the officers (all numbers are actual).
|SUGGESTION FOR IMPROVEMENT||NUMBER OF OFFICERS|
|Reduce the age bands||1|
|Get back to prisons where observation is possible||1|
|Smaller groups of prisoners||1|
|Encourage post incident care teams||1|
|More balanced shift system||1|
The tables above demonstrate that coping strategies are identifiable and may be successful. Participants did not really mention avoidance procedures other than ones that required them to divert their attention to a different task. Yet, it is possible to conclude that prisoners organised their routines in ways that attempted to avoid confrontation. For example, a number of prisoners said that they had no problems because "I don't mix" or "I just talk to one or two people".
In a similar manner, Officers took precautions and organised their behaviour and that of prisoners in ways that attempted to avoid confrontation. For example prisoners from one wing in HMP Jupiter ate their meals behind their cell doors, on the other wing, the prisoners used the dining room. Alternatively, the remand prisoners could only attend the gym when they were called from a roster. As well as allocating scarce facilities efficiently, this should have helped to prevent intimidation from some prisoners keen to use the gym at the exclusion of others.
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It is likely that "problems" are associated with fear. However, the relationship between problems both within and without one's peer group is probably less than simple. For example, the finding that people are having problems may be positive as it at least demonstrates that they are interacting. Within a prison, the person who may be most fearful may report the fewest problems because (s)he only leaves the cell when forced. In a similar manner, if prisoners are locked up all the time, then they cannot interact with anybody, unless they are sharing a cell. An alternative (yet also potentially positive) explanation is that through trivial problems, officers and prisoners become better acquainted and relationships are built that may reduce feelings of fear. Of course, the results of increased interaction may also be negative, resulting in "taxing", mugging, etc. as indicated elsewhere.
Hughes and Zamble (1993) concluded that, "senior correctional management have a special responsibility to assist employees in dealing with those stressors inherent in the work situation and the nature of work with offender clients." Of course, the Prison Service's liability is limited under the scope of Crown immunity. Yet, it would not be unreasonable to accede to the Prison Officers' Association's request that, "The government should ensure that Prison Officers and other penal workers are given the same rights to a safe and healthy environment as would be provided for workers in any other industry" (1987).
Officers are a much-maligned group. Toch's call for positive feedback in 1977 should be addressed to the Her Majesty's Prison Service of twenty years later. It would alleviate fear and provide more positive environments that might be better suited to fulfil the duty of care that the Prison Service owes to its staff as well as to its prisoners. From the findings presented here, it is possible to conclude that fear exists in prisons, is real, fairly widespread and seems to be related to inter and intra group relationships. To a degree, individuals and the organisation can cope with fear but much more needs to be done to permit its effective management. Unfortunately, it seems increasingly likely that not only is more unlikely to be done but that the problem of fear in prisons is likely to be exacerbated by the "crisis" in our prisons.
In recent years, numerous researchers have pointed to a crisis in our system as a whole and the prison system in particular (e.g. Cavadino 1992, or Dignan 1993). It is widely accepted that public misperceptions of the ways in which the system functions and political gamesmanship have worsened the crisis as they have resulted in ever increasing and ever harsher sentences. The 1997 Audit of Prison Service Resources predicted that overcrowding will continue and that "it will be extremely difficult to maintain adequate levels of constructive activities for prisoners". The numbers of men, women and young people in prison have already outstripped the predictions made in that audit. On the 29th of September, 1998, the Howard League reported that levels of overcrowding ranged from 1 to 95% across the prison estate and it seems only too appropriate to quote the Penal Affairs Consortium (1997):
"The combination of a rapidly rising prison population and budget cuts is damaging prison regimes and has thrown hard won improvements into reverse".
As they went on to state, there is risk of increased tension and loss of control. Under such conditions, there is almost certainly going to be more fear in prisons and that surely can not bode well for life during and after imprisonment.
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Adler, J R (1994) Fear in Prisons Occasional Paper (London: Prison Reform Trust).
Cavadino, M (1992) "Theorising the Penal Crisis" in K. Bottomley, K, Fowles, T & Reiner, R (eds) Criminal Justice, Theory and Practice (London: British Society of Criminology).
Clemmer, D (1940) The Prison Community (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston).
Cooley, D. (1993) "Criminal Victimisation in Male Federal Prisons" 35 Canadian Journal of Criminology 479-495.
Dignan, J (1993) "English Criminal Justice-A system in Crisis" 3 Tilburg Foreign Law Review 67.
Fattah, E A (1991) Understanding Criminal Victimization (Scarborough: Prentice-Hall).
Figgie, H E (1980) The Figgie Report on Fear of Crime: America Afraid (Ohio: ATO Inc.).
Fleisher, M S (1989) Warehousing Violence: Frontiers of Anthropology Volume 3 (London: Sage).
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(1) The author's original intentions were to employ a longitudinal design to attempt to address part of the debate between those espousing deprivation and importation explanations to "prisonization" (Clemmer, 1940). It is hoped that future research may help to test the hypothesis that coping techniques displayed by prisoners are the same as those they use when not incarcerated (Toch, 1992).
(2) At the time, this was particularly likely on the remand wing where shared cells were normal. With the rising numbers of prisoners, nearly 66,000 at the time of writing, "doubling up" is again likely and the prisoner:staff ratio is high.