RDA prisoner involvement FI
Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

How to do prisoner involvement properly

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New toolkit from Revolving Doors Agency sets out the A-Z of prisoner involvement with an excellent set of resources.

This is the third post on the recent series of toolkits recently (30 June 2016) published by the Revolving Doors Agency  on service user involvement for staff working in the Criminal Justice System.

Improving prisoner involvement systems

Prisoner involvement is a key part of running an effective prison. Giving prisoners the opportunity to give their viewsRDA prisoner involvement cover and contribute through representative systems like wing meetings and prison councils and through consultations has many benefits. It can deal with issues before they become a problem, and can improve staff and prisoner relations. It gives prisoners a voice and develops their skills. Playing an active role in their community and taking on a measure of responsibility can assist in the journey away from crime.

The toolkit, entitled  “Improving your prisoner involvement systems” is designed for prison governors and staff to review and improve the ways they consult and involve prisoners in running their prison.

The toolkit is organised in a straightforward fashion. It provides a comprehensive view of the subject and takes readers through four main steps:

1: Introduction

This section defines service user involvement, sets out the rationale for involving prisoners and highlights the key issues for prisons in implementing effective prisoner involvement which addresses both prisoner and prison staff concerns:

RDA prisoner involvement barriers

2: Reviewing and improving prisoner involvement processes

This section looks at the key issue of prisoner involvement — getting people on board — before providing detailed guidance for the reviewing and planning process.

It ends by looking at how to make prisoner involvement an integrated part of running a prison with approaches for embedding prisoner involvement within the establishment.

3: On-going representative prisoner involvement

This section focuses on good practice in recruiting and retaining wing representatives, and what their role can entail. The guidance is relevant to any representative roles within the prison and also looks at effective wing and prison wide meeting systems. The table below highlights some issues that can arise with prisoner reps and potential solutions to address these issues.

RDA prisoner rep issues

4: Consultation methods

Section 4 considers five different approaches to consulting with prisoners and provides detailed guidance of how and in what circumstances to use:

  • The Matrix
  • World Cafe
  • Focus Groups
  • Interviews
  • Surveys/Questionnaires

The toolkit is also backed up by a very useful resource section which includes everything you might need for implementing prisoner involvement from a good governance checklist to sample questionnaires and terms of reference for joint staff/prisoner working groups.


If you’ve been thinking about beefing up prisoner involvement in your establishment, this is an excellent resource to guide you through the process and is based on prisoner involvement work in Norwich and Holloway prisons.


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