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Health & Safety Considerations in Working with Offenders Dr. Craig Jackson Prof. Occupational Health Psychology Head of Psychology Birmingham City University. School of Social Sciences Faculty of Education, Law & Social Sciences.

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Health & Safety Considerations in

Working with Offenders

Dr. Craig Jackson

Prof. Occupational Health Psychology

Head of Psychology

Birmingham City University

School of Social Sciences

Faculty of Education, Law & Social Sciences

Prisons within HM Prison Service are one of the most unique environments in existence

Prisons are unlike any other legislated workplace

Primary aim is to protect the public and keep prisoners in a secure, decent and humane environment

Contradiction of locked doors

Complexities of Prison H&S environments in existence

Offenders & those working with them

Hard to preserve H&S perfectly

Many types of offender


Both secure and non-secure settings

Many types of sentence

Offender work: physical & psychological effects

Prisons act 1865
Prisons Act (1865) environments in existence

Hard bed board and labour
Hard bed, board and labour environments in existence

Pointless labour as punishment
Pointless labour as punishment environments in existence

Gladstone committee 1895

Prisoners should leave as better people environments in existence

Punitive labour replaced with learning a trade

Prisoners allowed to earn a wage

"Own clothes" & haircuts allowed

Shaved heads phased out

Better visiting facilities

Education and libraries in all prisons

Incentives and earned privilege schemes

Gladstone Committee 1895

Care vs custody

Contribute to safe & secure custody environments in existence

Prepare reports in a timely manner

Comply with audit requirements

Follow procedures for prisoner applications

Apply authorised control and restraint

Encourage prisoners in offending behaviour treatment progs

Uphold respect for prisoners' rights, dignity and property

Act as personal office for groups of prisoners

Care vs. Custody

Modern Prison Officers environments in existence

Prison Lawyer


Counsellor (various)



Security expert


Health and Safety Advisor

Psychosocial Environment environments in existence

Emotional demands

Low supervisory support

Role conflict

High "client" contact

Exposure to violence & threats

Unpleasant work

Overcrowding (61%)

Restructuring (2010)

Mediating factors for high sickness absence

Prisons and YOIs environments in existence

  • 160 in England and Wales

  • 11"private prisons"

    • Maximum security

    • Training establishments

    • Satellite camps

  • 86,000 prisoners

  • Offenders wishing to commit violence to others and officers make total prevention impossible

  • Thankless task with little acknowledgement

  • Variety of Sentencing environments in existence

    Many workers will have contact with offenders

    A. Custodial services

    B. Offender management or rehab

    C. Workplace experience

    "Community" Sentencing environments in existence

    Attend School

    Community payback (40-300 hrs)

    Completion of job training

    Complete a treatment programme (anger, drugs)

    Avoid activities (pubs, football)

    Curfew (electronic tag)

    Residence sentence (specified, approved premises)

    Receive mental health treatment

    Supervision sentence

    Attendance training (18-24 yrs)

    Jackson 2011

    " environments in existenceIt is important that the prisoner is correctly assessed and passed fit only for work which is within his mental and physical capacity. We have to . . . ensure that no prisoner suffers injury through being ordered to do unsuitable work."

    HK Snell 1953

    Working Prisons are not new

    Work environments in existence

    Work in prison is part of rehabilitation, not the punishment

    Suitability for work assessed upon reception

    Workshops & activity units

    Working environments in existence




    Data entry



    Desktop publishing





    West Mids Probation Service environments in existence

    Two Wood Workshops

    HSE Improvement notices in 2002 & 2003

    1) Lack of COSHH assessment for wood dust

    2) Use of Workplace Equipment Regs (1998)

    Notices complied with

    Improvements made

    Social Undesirability Bias environments in existence

    Society willing to accept unsatisfactory level of H&S for offenders

    Work is NOT the punishment

    Work-related illness is NOT the punishment

    Post English Riots vengefulness

    Health & Safety Concerns: NPS environments in existence

    2001; 20,000 staff; 42 area boards

    Few Health & Safety risk assessments of work

    Only ad hoc inspections

    Health & Safety training minimal

    Few areas with trained / competent staff or FAs

    Few Health & Safety committees

    No H&S guidance for supervision of offenders

    HSE Home Office case study 2005

    Stress in HMP "London" environments in existence

    • N 1038 HMP staff London region

    • Managers, Officer grades, Admin

    • Domains of HSE Mgt Stds linked to Wellbeing (OR)

      • Demands (3.2)

      • Control (3.3)

      • Support (manager (3.5) then peer (3.7)

      • Relationships (3.7)

      • Role (4.2)

      • Change (3.0)

    Bevan et al 2010

    Stress in HMP "London" environments in existence

    Bevan et al 2010

    Personality Disorders environments in existence

    1% of gen. pop. have PD

    50% - 75% prisoners have PD diagnosis

    Current concern for public services

    Vicarious Trauma in some therapists & officers

    Personality Disorder Concerns environments in existence

    Medium Secure unit for offenders

    Staff concerns from...

    "Desire for more meaningful contact"

    "Contradictory attitude to openness"

    "Feeling physically safe / emotionally vulnerable"

    "Ambivalence to structure and control"

    "Emphasis on staff relationships"

    Kurtz & Turner 2007

    Vicarious Trauma environments in existence

    • Working with sex offenders

      • Intrusive thoughts

      • Avoidance behaviours

      • Hyper-vigilance

  • Highest levels reported in secure settings

  • Not related to treatment type, caseload, or previous trauma

  • Moulden & Firestone 2007

    Vicarious Trauma environments in existence

    Proactive "Talking Therapies" environments in existence

    Health effects of high profile murder investigations

    Soham murders:

    SIO Chris Stevenson

    James Bulger murder:

    SIO Albert Kirkby

    Ipswich ripper murders:

    SIO Roy Lambert

    Cromwell Street murders:

    SIO John Bennett

    • Team of 47 detectives

    • Proactive "Stress Counselling”

    • Some accepted – others did not

    • Upon retirement . . .

    Severe Fatigue environments in existence

    NOT Chronic Fatigue


    Inability to function

    physically & mentally

    3% prevalence across working population

    "Burnout" - severe fatigue response to chronic stress

    • Occurs more in psychologically "vulnerable" staff . .

    • . . . . . Working in conditions they find stressful.

    Unusual tribunal cases
    Unusual Tribunal Cases environments in existence

    Tail wagg dog atmosphere
    Tail-Wagg-Dog Atmosphere environments in existence

    Fire starting environments in existence




    Erotic pleasure



    Crime concealment



    Mental disorder




    Attempted suicide



    Lewis & Yarnell 1951; Incardi 1970;

    Prins 1985; Rix 1994

    Fire environments in existence

    Fire environments in existence

    11 deaths from cell fires in the 1980s

    3 deaths in 1990s

    5 deaths in 2000s

    Violence environments in existence

    121% increase in assaults on female prison officers since 2000

    From 232 assaults to 513

    58% increase in attacks on male officers

    From 1,767 in 2000 to 2,804 in 2006

    Violence environments in existence

    Suicide environments in existence

    24 prisoner deaths in the prison estate of England & Wales in January 2012

    Most natural causes

    11 of these were suicidal deaths

    Many more attempted it but were not successful

    Suicide-Prevention is ineffective environments in existence

    Suicide-prevention training for prison officers

    "Arming" officers with cutting tools at all times

    Fostering an attitude of duty of care in the officers

    Prisons are suicidogenic environments

    Isolation, stress, & bleakness create a suicide-space

    Prisoners listeners of limited value

    Samaritans phones in HMP Woodhill broken

    Riasec model

    Relates to both environments in existencePERSONALITY and ENVIRONMENT









    RIASEC Model





    Holland 1997

    "Realistics" environments in existence

    Practical individuals



    Prefer objects and tools

    Not keen on concepts or abstracts


    Mechanic, Labourer, Driver

    Riasec model1

    things environments in existence




    Holland 1997

    Relates to both PERSONALITY and ENVIRONMENT









    RIASEC Model





    Prediger's dimensions

    Summary environments in existence

    Prisons have gone through many dramatic shifts, and will continue to do so

    Prison officers subjected to usual job stressors, AND unique issues caused by the nature of work

    Health and well being adversely affected by the work and change

    Psychosocial thinking & mapping for future officers in selection and training