Restorative PROBLEM-SOLVING: AN ALTERNATIVE APPROACH TO PRISONDISCIPLINE?
Michelle ButlerQueen’s University Belfast
Prison disciplinary processes in the UK include:Adjudication process – Accused prisoner appears before anadjudicationgovernorinahearing where bothsides argue their casein an audio-recorded hearingand punishment is awarded according to strict guidelines (HMPrison Service,2005).Incentives schemes (e.g. IEP, PREPS) –Encourage pro-social behaviour and compliance by rewardinggood behaviourand discouraging inappropriate behaviour through the withdrawal of incentives (NIPS,2006, HM Prison Service, 2011). Three levels:BasicStandardEnhanced
Research indicates that:Perceived fairness of adjudications depends on ability to hear prisoners’ voices(see Justice, 1983;Ditchfield& Duncan, 1987; Light &Mattlieght, 1988). Concern about the use of solitary confinement, especially for those with mental health issues (Scraton& Moore, 2004Smith, 2006;).Not a straightforward relationship between behavioural compliance on incentive schemes and reduced reoffending, mainlynegatively impact on perceptions of fairness andlegitimacy, inadequate rewards/punishments, open to discretion and influenced by staff-prisonerrelationships(see Sykes,1956;Liebling, Muir, Rose & Bottoms, 1999;Liebling& Price,2001;Liebling, 2008;Ministry of Justice, 2008;Crewe, 2009).Little known about the impact of these disciplinary processes on prisoner compliance and/or defiance.
Four methods of achieving compliance (see Scott, 2001; Bottoms, 2002,Carrabine, 2005; Crewe, 2009):CoercionManipulation/inducementHabit, ritual or fatalistic resignationNormative justification or commitmentDefiance theory (see Sherman, 1993,1995) argues that defiant reactions are more likely to occur when:Process was procedurally unjust, stigmatising and/or disrespectfulFailure to identify with those imposing the sanctionPrevious experiences of authorityIndividual characteristic anddeterability
Research aims: Explore staffand prisoner views about the prison disciplinary systemand itsimpact on prisoner compliance and/or defiance.Methodology:Review of available statistical data34 semi-structured interviews with prisoners consisting of two matched samples drawn from across four UK prisons:High punishment group(N=19, including 2 women and 7ethnic minority. Meannumber of adjudications was23.37).Comparison group (N=15,including2 women and5 ethnic minority. Meannumber of adjudicationswas 0.13).14 semi-structured interviews with key staff and numerous informal discussions during thefieldworkObservations of adjudication hearings
Adjudications:Overuse of adjudication process“There is a remarkable culture here […] where everything goes to adjudication. It could be for the stupidest, most petty thing, but everything goes to adjudication. And, I have tried to […] tell them, it doesn’t have to be like this. […] Use some wit, some interpersonal skill.”(Staff)Not listened to/intimidating“I said listen to me and it’s like talking to a brick wall and it’s like me saying ‘See that jumper, it’swhite’and it’s a white jumper and you’re saying,‘No,it’s black.’[…] See howfrustrating it would be after awhile! […]‘You’re wrong, we’re right,’[…]that is the way it goes.” (Int. 28 - Comparison)Kangaroo court“It’sa kangaroo court. There’s no fairness, no equality to that. They read out the statements and that’s it really.[…] Youcan talk all morning, but there’s no question, you’re guilty. All prisoners have no faith in the adjudication system whatsoever.” (Int. 17 - High)
Incentive scheme:Illegitimate and unjust“Idon’t they should dothat [incentive scheme]. […] Everyone should be treated the same and punished by the board [adjudication process]” (Int. 23 - Comparison)“Theytry to control the prisoner with it[…]they use it for their own means not as a way‘Well,you’ve done somethingwrong,you deserve this adversereport’,see they use it as‘Well,I can control you, I give you two adverse you go standard, another two and then you gobasic’.”(Int. 24 - High)Open to misuse/discrimination“Basic, Standard and Enhanced:[…] It’sa scapegoat to decide to discriminate.It’s a legal way of discrimination.”(Int. 18 – high)“A certain few [staff],very, very, few can be a bit over zealous with it. […]Whenyou are going through the files you can see the same name (of staff member) popping up time and time again and that can lead you to go and look into it. Sometimes I will decide not to reduce their regimelevel.”(Staff)
Incentive scheme:Inappropriate incentives and sanctions“There needs to be a bigger incentive. We are so limited by what we canoffer[…] So the big failing […] is the prisoners themselves don’t see a big enough gap between Standard and Enhanced.” (Staff)“If you’re on Basic regime you’re not entitled to a TV. So we have actually some guys at the minute who are coaching each other: ‘I know how to get a TV. If youself-harm […]whether you’re on Basic or not, they’ll give you a TV’.”(Staff)Doublepunishment“They’vegot you over a barrel, you get punishedtwice. […] Theydrop you from your enhancement to a standardregime. […]It’s unfair toprisoners […] we’relike pawns on a chesstable.”(Int. 21 – Control)“I would say [incentive scheme] and adjudications yes, I would agree with the young fella’s point of view that yes […] that’s two bites of the cherry.”(Staff)
Most prisoners perceived these processes as illegitimate and/or procedurally unjust, yet not all reacted with defiance.Appeared to be the combination of events which trigger defiance:Perceptions of illegitimacy an procedural unjustnessCorrosive communication styles:“There’s certain [staff] who speak to you like you’re an animal. […] They think because they have the uniform on they’re invincible. It’s not the case. Instead of just coming up and not wanting to fight with you but pushing you nearly as if they want you to bite.”(Int. 19 - Comparison)Individual characteristics (e.g. drug use, mental health issues, cognitive skills, masculinity, socialisation)“Some people will take it, others won’t. I won’t stand for it.”(Int. 17 - High)
Those who complied did so for reasons offatalistic resignationand/or manipulation/inducement.“No [I don’t think it is a good system], but you’re forced to signit […]you have to take part in it […] You’ve no option, there’s no option.” (Int. 21 – Comparison)Resulted in short-term compliance and depended on the ability of the prison toeffectively monitor and respond to prisonerbehaviour.Does not encourage internalisation of norms, long-term compliance and is unlikely to promote a reduction in reoffending behaviour.
Amend incentive schemes and adjudication process to take account of the issues identified.Consider adopting a restorative problem-solving approach to try to:Improve legitimacy and procedural justice of these processesTackle stereotypes held by both prisoners and staffAttempt to facilitate ‘right’ relationshipsPromote more active engagement with these processesEncourage the internalisation of rules and normsFacilitate long-term compliance and desistanceRecognise impact of behaviour on others
“Here, it is ‘break a rule, you get punished.’ And, the result is that you end up spending a lot of time with cases like this [minor case of disobeying an order]. Really minor, unimportant stuff. And, it impacts the staff member’s authority on the landing too. The prisoner gets the idea thatthisguy can’t work this out on hisown.The only tool in his box is to say,‘Right, you’re charged’. So, there isn’t a relationship there. There isn’t that interpersonal leverage. I mean, think about these two [the officer and the prisoner from the case], how are they going to be like when they get back on the landing. There won’t be any trust there. They’ve just spent 15 minutes down-talking each other in front of the rest of us. How are you supposed to do rehabilitation in a situation like that? You can’t.”(Staff)