The impact of Covid restrictions on prisoners and prisons is to be examined in a new Swansea-led research project, which has been awarded £251,240 by the Economic and Social Research Council, to see what lessons can be learned.
Pandemic control measures create huge difficulties for prisons and prisoners. The cramped physical conditions of many prisons make it very difficult to observe social distancing.
Many prisoners are extremely vulnerable, with emotional and mental health difficulties, and high rates of violence, suicide and self-harm. A disproportionate number of prisoners are from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, a group that is at particular risk from Covid.
Health protection measures to tackle Covid have meant additional constraints for prisoners, on top of normal prison restrictions. For example, for the vast majority, work, education, rehabilitation and family visits have been suspended or significantly reduced and time spent confined to a cell has increased.
The project is to be led by Professor Jason Davies of Swansea University's department of psychology, with collaborators from universities in Belfast, Liverpool, Lincoln and Leicester and from the Ministry of Justice.
The team will be trying to establish the impact of introducing restrictions - and of easing them - on prisoners' psychological wellbeing and their behaviour. They will be examining any differences in the responses and analysing what factors may lie behind these differences.
Their findings are likely to be relevant to the prison system as a whole. However, they are focusing on a particular sub-group of prisoners across 34 prison sites who are following the Offender Personality Disorder Pathway.
They will be interviewing a sample of prisoners from this group, as well as analysing data on mental health and wellbeing across time.
Professor Jason Davies of Swansea University, lead researcher for the project, said:
"Understanding and learning from the impact of COVID-19 in prisons, and responses to it, is essential.
We need to identify how to build resilience, in case further restrictive measures are needed as the pandemic continues.
Our findings might also highlight practices that can make a positive difference to prisons and prisoners in their normal day-to-day running.
The research will also allow us to examine whether certain groups amongst prisoners, for example ethnic groups, are disproportionately affected by COVID and the response to it, as is the case in the wider community."
This research is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), as part of UK Research and Innovation's rapid response to Covid-19.
Notes to editors:
Swansea University is a world-class, research-led, dual campus university offering a first-class student experience and has one of the best employability rates of graduates in the UK. The University has the highest possible rating for teaching - the Gold rating in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) in 2018 and was commended for its high proportions of students achieving consistently outstanding outcomes.
Swansea climbed 14 places to 31st in the Guardian University Guide 2019, making us Wales' top ranked university, with one of the best success rates of graduates gaining employment in the UK and the same overall satisfaction level as the Number 1 ranked university.
The 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 results saw Swansea make the 'biggest leap among research-intensive institutions' in the UK (Times Higher Education, December 2014) and achieved its ambition to be a top 30 research University, soaring up the league table to 26th in the UK.
The University is in the top 300 best universities in the world, ranked in the 251-300 group in The Times Higher Education World University rankings 2018. Swansea University now has 23 main partners, awarding joint degrees and post-graduate qualifications.
The University was established in 1920 and was the first campus university in the UK. It currently offers around 350 undergraduate courses and 350 postgraduate courses to circa 20,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students. The University has ambitious expansion plans as it moves towards its centenary in 2020 and aims to continue to extend its global reach and realise its domestic and international potential.
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