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The psycho-social environment of prisons and its relationship to recidivism

Abstract

This research brief explores the difficulty of establishing a causative link between two discrete phenomena: the prison environment and program success rates, as measured by recidivism. The paper discusses the considerable progress which has been made in the last decade in researching prison environment or culture, including the role of staff / prisoner relations, and finds that there is clear presumptive evidence that program outcomes are interactive with prison regime factors. The research evidence seems to suggest that, in terms of the likely success of program delivery, there is a descending order of desirable environments: in the community; in a prison that is exclusively therapeutic; within a therapeutic community in a conventional prison; in a conventional prison which encourages inmate participation and self-reliance and is safe for inmates; and in a conventional prison which is neither safe nor encourages prisoners to participate in activities. The paper recommends that primary interjurisdictional research is now required in order to take the question further.

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