Research and analysis

Understanding prison violence: a rapid evidence assessment

This report summarises the findings of a review of the evidence on the causes of violent assaults by adult men in prison.


Understanding prison violence: a rapid evidence assessment

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The occurrence of violent assault in prison is a challenging problem. This rapid evidence assessment (REA) reviewed 97 research studies published since 1st January 2000 that explored the causes of prison violence. The review identifies several factors associated with increased violence including the challenging behaviours that people bring with them into prison, exacerbating features of the prison environment, and the nature of the daily regime and interactions between staff and prisoners.

The review concludes that a crucial factor in maintaining order is the availability and the skills of prison staff in exercising their authority in a way that appears legitimate and justifiable to prisoners, and is enacted consistently and fairly by both officers and senior managers. Stability is also likely to be associated with greater availability of meaningful activity within the prison. Safer prisons require a high level of staff skills so that they can build positive and collaborative relationships with prisoners and work with them to understand and manage the influences on their everyday behaviour.

Published 6 September 2018