University of Portsmouth research finds conversation could help prisoners' rehabilitation

Prisoners could be more successfully rehabilitated on release by means of a simple conversation, according to new research.

Friday, 10th January 2020, 11:45 am
Updated Monday, 13th January 2020, 5:50 pm
Picture: Paul Faith/PA Wire

Evangelos Mitrokostas, of the University of Portsmouth, carried out the study which found that inmates on the brink of leaving prison have often ‘lost any sense of being connected to the outside world’.

He explained that a structured conversation in the days leading up to release could alter their attitude and sense of belonging.

The visiting fellow said: ‘For many prisoners, being incarcerated means losing more than physical freedom.

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‘It appears to also take a criminal's sense of belonging to wider society, making it doubly difficult for them to join back in or even want to, once released.

‘Our research looked at the rehabilitation and social behaviour of prisoners and found that inmates who were asked to reflect on their time in prison were significantly more likely to experience positive rehabilitation and social reintegration after their release.’

The study was conducted in two prisons, a low and a high security facility in Chania, Greece, where prisoners in one group were asked to reflect on their time in prison, described by researchers as a priming intervention, while a second group was not.

Mr Mitrokostas said: ‘Prisoners in the priming group were asked to contemplate their time spent in jail and how it had affected them.

‘The idea behind this intervention was that inmates were driven to think about rehabilitation - the purpose of imprisonment.

‘They often then expressed a desire or a commitment to become 'better persons' through decisions made in the experimental tests.’

He said that the results showed a ‘strong increase in the inmates' trust and reciprocity towards those outside prison’ as a result of the priming intervention.

He added that ‘it almost tripled the percentage of prisoners who trusted the outside world’.

Mr Mitrokostas said that the findings suggested that a simple low-cost intervention based on encouraging prison inmates to reflect on their incarceration might be an effective tool to promote rehabilitation into society.

He added: ‘I believe that our findings can be very useful to policymakers who are in charge of evaluating the impact of incarceration on social behaviour and successful return to society.

‘A simple conversation could significantly strengthen a prisoner's sense of identity and improve their chances of positive cultural reintegration.’