Attitudes towards prisoner-to-prisoner bullying and the association with prison environments: examining the components

Published date11 April 2016
Date11 April 2016
AuthorJane L. Ireland,Carol A. Ireland,Christina L Power
Subject MatterHealth & social care,Criminology & forensic psychology,Aggression, conflict & peace
Attitudes towards prisoner-to-prisoner
bullying and the association with prison
environments: examining the components
Jane L. Ireland, Carol A. Ireland and Christina L. Power
Jane L. Ireland is based at
University of Central
Lancashire, Preston, UK and
Ashworth Research Centre,
Mersey Care NHS Trust,
Liverpool, UK.
Carol A. Ireland is based at
University of Central
Lancashire, Preston, UK;
Ashworth Research Centre,
Mersey Care NHS Trust,
Liverpool, UK and
Coastal Child and Adult
Therapeutic Services,
Lancashire, UK.
Christina L. Power is based at
Veterans First Point, NHS
Lothian, Edinburgh, UK.
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to examine attitudes towards prisoner-to-prisoner bullying, further
considering the association between attitudes and characteristics of the prison environment thought to
promote prisoner bullying.
Design/methodology/approach Questionnaires were administered to 423 adult male prisoners and 195
correctional officers from three prisons in Canada. Participants completed the Prison Bullying Scale and the
Prison Environmental Scale.
Findings Convergence in attitudes between prisoners and officers were noted although staff were more
likely to consider bullies to be skilled, whereas prisoners were more likely than officers to feel that victims of
bullying should be supported. Associations between attitudes supportive of bullying and environmental
characteristics likely to promote prison bullying were found primarily among prisoners; the strongest
predictors of such attitudes were poor relationships (e.g. prisoner to officer; prisoner-to-prisoner).
Research limitations/implications The study highlights the importance of the social aspect of the prison
environment. It further provides an outline of two measures that could have utility in evaluating interventions
designed to reduce prisoner-to-prisoner bullying.
Practical implications Interventions into prisoner-to-prisoner bullying should attend to the wider
environment and not focus solely on individual pathology approaches. A whole prisonapproach to
intervention should be adopted, with recognition that officers and prisoners are part of the community.
A focus on the perceived relationships between all those in this community requires consideration, with a
community centred approach recommended for intervention. A concentrated effort is needed on evaluating
and publishing interventions into prisoner-to-prisoner bullying.
Originality/value The study is the first to examine attitudes in a combined sample of prisoners and officers
and focuses on the role of the wider prison environment. It also utilises a sample from three prisons as
opposed to focusing on a single establishment.
Keywords Prisoners, Aggressive environments, Attitudes to aggression, Prison aggression,
Prison bullying, Prison officers
Paper type Research paper
Researchers have begun to suggest that prison bullying is well researched (e.g. Nelson et al.,
2010). This may represent a generous interpretation of a literature base that has been in
existence for almost two decades (Ireland and Archer, 1996; Connell and Farrington, 1997) but
has actually produced only a limited range of papers across such a considerable period of time.
It would further appear that papers on this topic in more recent years have failed to properly
convey an understanding of the definitional challenges in this area, drawn conclusions by
Received 25 May 2015
Revised 2 December 2015
Accepted 5 December 2015
VOL. 8 NO. 2 2016, pp.124-136, © Emerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 1759-6599 DOI 10.1108/JACPR-05-2015-0172

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