Exploring hate crime amongst a cohort of Scottish prisoners: an exploratory study

Date28 February 2019
Published date28 February 2019
AuthorKirsty Penrice,Philip Birch,Stephan McAlpine
Subject MatterHealth & social care
Exploring hate crime amongst a cohort of
Scottish prisoners: an exploratory study
Kirsty Penrice, Philip Birch and Stephan McAlpine
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to explore the motives a person adopts in order to engage in hate-
related behaviours within a prison setting. A subsidiary aim of the study was to compare this cohort of
prisoners with prisoners who have been convicted for aggravated racism in the community.
Design/methodology/approach In order to gather data, an exploratory research design was adopted,
utilising the method of semi-structured interviews. In total, a number of nine interviews were conducted.
Qualitative analysis was then employed allowing for an examination of meaning in relation to the motives
behind the commission of hate crimes to occur.
Findings The findings revealed the presence of racist beliefs and attitudes in both groups involved in the
study. Further similarities between the two groups included the perception of inequality and beliefs about
racism. The differences between the two groups included poor emotional regulation and an inability to
manage beliefs and subsequent behaviours about people from different ethnic groups, with those in custody
seeming to be more reactive.
Practical implications The findings provide a preliminary insight into enhancing inmate safety.
The environmental implications begin to reveal the complexity of hate-related behaviours in custody. There
are differences between the context of hate crime committed in a prison environment compared to that
committed in the community that require different solutions for addressing such behaviour. Further
implications are considered in the final section of the paper.
Originality/value A large body of research has been conducted on prison violence, seldom does this
research examine this issue within the context of hate crime. This preliminary study offers an insight into
prison-based hate crime.
Keywords Prison, Offenders, Victims, Hate crime, Race, Community-based
Paper type Research paper
Prison violence is well documented, with research showing that this behaviour can be triggered
by a variety of reasons including deprivation of liberty, poor coping strategies in prison; stress,
mental health issues, gang membership and even the design of prisons (Arbach-Lucioni et al.,
2012; Bierie, 2012; Blevins et al., 2010; Ireland, 2002; Morris and Worrall, 2014; Worrall and
Morris, 2012) to name but a few. Seldom has research into prison violence considered this
behaviour in the context of hate crime, this preliminary study explores what motivates prisoners
to behave in a way that is perceived to be racially prejudiced and hate-related whilst considering
the potential impact of the prison environment. Specifically, it examines why prisoners adopt an
offensive interpersonal style and target individuals based on their race in prison with a
comparative sample of those who committed racially aggravated hate crimes in the community.
This allows the study to not only explore motivations behind this type of behaviour but also
examine what impact, if any, the prison environment might have on offenders.
The Scottish Government defines hate crime as a crime committed against a person
or property that is motivated by malice or ill-wil l towards an identifia ble social group
(Scottish Government, 2015, p. 1). Within the literature, hate crime typically focuses on
disability, race or e thnicity, religion or b elief, sexual orienta tion and transgender ide ntity.
Received 1 October 2018
Revised 8 December 2018
Accepted 15 January 2019
Kirsty Penrice is based at the
Department of Psychology,
Scottish Prison Service,
Edinburgh, UK.
Philip Birch is based at the
Centre for Law and Justice,
Charles Sturt University,
Port Macquarie, Australia.
Stephan McAlpine is based at
Scottish Prison Service,
Edinburgh, UK.
DOI 10.1108/JCRPP-10-2018-0027 VOL. 5 NO. 1 2019, pp.39-49, © Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 2056-3841
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