Case Study – Managing Challenging Behaviour in Prisons

The Training Initiative were asked to design a training model around ‘Managing Challenging Behaviour in Prisons’, which was to be delivered over the contracted 6-month period. 

Our programme was designed to create open dialogue between staff and prisoners about the reasons for conflict and the impact it has on them. It has been widely reported that the pilot prison, HMP Nottingham, is experiencing significantly high levels of violence and prisoner suicide and a breakdown in basic communication and respect between staff and offenders is exacerbating the situation. 

Our 3-day training programme was designed to facilitate empathy and break down barriers that previously would have resulted in inter-group conflict. Participants were given the skills and knowledge to not only understand conflict and its triggers, but also to deal with it and diffuse it peacefully. Participants took an active role in dialogue and became confident in leading activities with peers going forward. Course activities required participants to engage with, at times, thought provoking and controversial discussion which was intended to empower participants and give them the confidence to resolve situations peacefully. 

Our package supports the prison by skilling individuals who can not only conduct sessions with prisoners about conflict resolution, but also train other internal stakeholders to deliver sessions too. This self-sustaining methodology, if managed and supported on roll-out, will help to reduce the number of violent incidents and uses of force within the prison. 

Longer term, a roll out of the project across the prison estate will replicate the short-term effects; reducing the number of violent incidents and uses of force. This programme will demonstrate HMPPS’ proactive approach to managing conflict which will promote improved working relationships and better understanding between prisoners and staff. A more positive and proactive atmosphere for staff and prisoners to co-exist will be facilitated; increasing staff morale, reducing staff turnover and sickness. The project will create a safer, inclusive working environment leading to greater participation from prisoners in purposeful activity, linking directly with HMIP measures of a healthy prison. 

Feedback from participants

The participant feedback we received was very positive. 

· 100% of offenders strongly agreed that they enjoyed the course 

· 100% of offenders strongly agreed that sessions were informative and engaging 

· 100% of offenders agreed/strongly agreed that they enjoyed working with different people. 

· 100% of officers agreed/strongly agreed that they enjoyed the course. 

· 100% of officers strongly agreed that sessions were informative and engaging 

· 100% of officers agreed/strongly agreed that they enjoyed working with different people, with one officer stating there were initially out of their comfort zone but quickly found their feet. 

· Perhaps the most encouraging feedback, comes from the following findings regarding knowledge gained. 

· ALL participants agreed/strongly agreed that they better understand the causes of conflict following the course. 

· ALL offenders stated that they feel they can now empathise more with others and appreciate that individuals have different triggers. With such high levels prisoner on prisoner violence this statistic is particularly encouraging. For if they can empathise and appreciate others’ triggers, then potentially they will adjust their attitude and behaviour accordingly. 

In a similar vein, three out of four participating officers stated they that they feel they can now empathise more with others and appreciate that individuals have different triggers. This understanding will help them to build productive relationships with prisoners and manage them respectfully. 

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