Preventing and reducing prison bullying

Kate Gooch, James Treadwell, Russ Trent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bullying is often said to be endemic in young offender institutions. Indeed, a series of recent HM Inspectorate of Prisons reports note high levels of violence and bullying across the YOI estate. The true scale of prison bullying is, however, difficult to accurately assess, partly
because of its subtlety and complexity, but also because prisoners may not recognise certain
behaviour as ‘bullying’ or, if they do, may be unwilling to disclose concerns to staff. This, coupled with the young age of prisoners, their physical and emotional immaturity, and the use of new psychoactive substances, can render the task of reducing prison bullying particularly challenging. However, as the quote above
suggests, both the prevalence and severity of prison bullying can be reduced, even in establishments holding high numbers of young
prisoners. Drawing on our shared knowledge of prison bullying amongst young men – as a
Governing Governor (Russ Trent) and as academic researchers (Kate Gooch and James Treadwell) –
this article discusses the dynamics of prison bullying and explores the ways in which both the prevalence and severity of bullying can be
prevented and reduced. We argue that strong staff-prisoner relationships are central to, and
ultimately underpin, a whole prison approach to prison bullying. In establishing these relationships, it is the small details that make a big
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-29
Number of pages5
JournalPrison Service Journal
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2015


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