Respectful Victimisation

For some while now, Inside Time has included a page in each issue dedicated to reporting an overview of the recent reports published by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons. However, it is only in the last couple of weeks that I noticed something curious about the statistics which were printed.

When I looked at the breakdown for the inspection of HMP Coldingley (published in the September 2013 issue) I saw that 71% of prisoners there felt that staff treated them with respect, whilst 31% felt that staff victimised them. But with that coming to a total of 102% there were only two possible explanations. Either 2% of prisoners felt both respected and victimised at the same time, which I thought was very unlikely, or the published statistics were wrong for some reason.

After looking at details of other establishment inspections in future issues, I found that the combined percentage total of prisoners who felt respected and prisoners who felt victimised came to over one hundred in approximately six out of ten inspections. That is far too many to be merely a printing error on the part of Inside Time.

I then decided to dig a little deeper. I focused on closed, adult, male prisons since open prisons, female prisons, juvenile establishments, and immigration removal centres are all outlying anomalies, and I compiled all of the statistics for such prisons reported in Inside Time in 2014. I found that, on average, 73% of prisoners felt staff treated them with respect, whilst 33% of prisoners felt that they had been victimised by staff, throwing up an average discrepancy of 6%!

And then I remembered something. Some months ago here at HMP Wakefield, the Governor published a notice to prisoners to publicise the pleasing news that the inspectors had found that 85% of prisoners felt that staff treated them with respect here. What he didn’t mention was how many prisoners felt victimised and, as luck would have it, Inside Time published this figure in December 2014, the final month I had used for my statistical analysis. So I looked it up.

85% of prisoners did indeed feel respected, but a total of 52% of prisoners felt victimised by staff too! After looking at as many back copies of Inside Time as I could get hold of, I found that HMP Wakefield had the highest such rating of victimisation of any establishment, of any type, reported on since September 2013 (and possibly beyond). Furthermore, with a combined percentage total of 137%, it also had the highest level of statistical discrepancy at 37% above what one would expect and 31% over the average discrepancy for like prisons during the same year.

It is impossible to say for sure what the basis of such a discrepancy is without interviewing the prisoners used as the sample group, but 85% of people saying they feel respected pales into insignificance for me if over half of the general population also report being victimised and I have to wonder why the inspectorate has not commented on this inconsistency. Unless of course they believe that at least 37% of prisoners here at Wakefield are victimised respectfully.

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