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Project Launch: Secondary analysis of data collected over a 20 year period by HM Inspectorate of Prisons

Project Launch: Secondary analysis of data collected over a 20 year period by HM Inspectorate of Prisons

  • Date03 March 2022

On 23 February 2022, the Crime and Punishment Research Cluster launched the ESRC funded project “Secondary analysis of data collected over a 20 year period by HM Inspectorate of Prisons”


The project team, led by Prof Rosie Meek, has been awarded a £240,000 grant from the ESRC's Secondary Data Analysis Initiative to explore and analyse surveys of prisoners conducted by HM Inspectorate of Prisons for England and Wales (HMIP).

The launch brought together more than 150 academics, researchers, prison staff and other practitioners, media professionals and students to celebrate the start of this unique study. The launch started with a welcome by Prof Rosie Meek, principal investigator of the study, who introduced the project’s objectives and ambitions. Prof Nicholas Hardwick, co-investigator of the study, presented results of the initial feasibility study that examined the technical and ethical challenges in accessing the data. The project’s aims and an insight into the data’s potential were presented by postdoctoral researchers Dr Kim Reising and Dr Janet Bowstead.

The project seeks to prepare the data as a source for future research by academic, policy makers and practitioners. The Royal Holloway researchers will themselves use this unique database to investigate the relationships between self-reported characteristics and experiences of prisoners in areas surrounding the four healthy prison areas including safety, respect, purposeful activity, and rehabilitation.

Special guest of the evening was HM Chief Inspector of Prisons Charlie Taylor (pictured, photo credit: Rosie Meek) who, in his first public appearance since taking office, spoke about the Inspectorate’s work, the importance of the data and the value that secondary data analysis will have for HMIP.

Prof Rosie Meek ended the launch with concluding comments and fielding questions from the audience. Attendees were particularly excited about the great variety of topics that can be investigated with the data, not only including the four healthy prison areas, but also other elements of prison life including prison food, library use, prison design, and mental health, to name a few.

The project team would like to thank everyone who supported the event (virtually or in-person).

The project

The project uses data from over 100,000 prisoner surveys conducted by Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales (HMIP) over the last twenty years to examine how prisoners’ reports of their treatment and conditions vary according to their characteristics, sentence, and other factors, and how this relates to changes in prison policy and performance over this period.

The research will use analyses of prisoners’ own accounts of their experience to gain new insights into the most pressing issues facing the prison system at this time: deteriorating safety with high rates of assaults, self-harm and suicide; consistently high reoffending rates for those released from prison; restrictions on the time prisoners are able to spend out of their cells participating in work, education and rehabilitative activities; and how these differ according to prisoners’ characteristics.

The project team will work closely with practitioners, experts and former (and if possible current) prisoners to develop practical guidance and recommendations arising from the research and leave the database as a lasting legacy from the project, enabling other researchers to make use of this previously hidden resource.

The project team consists of Prof Rosie Meek, Prof Nicholas Hardwick, Prof Kathy Rastle, Prof Arnaud Chevalier, Dr Melissa Henderson, Dr Kim Reising and Dr Janet Bowstead.

More information is available here.

  • Quinn, A. Hardwick, N. and Meek, R. (2021) With age comes respect? And for whom exactly? A quantitative examination of prisoner experiences of respect elicited through HM Inspectorate of Prisons survey responses. The Howard Journal of Crime and Justice 60:2, pages 251-272, DOI: 10.1111/hojo.12413
  • Quinn, A., Denney, D., Hardwick, N., Jalil, R. and Meek, R. (2020) The feasibility and challenge of using administrative data: a case study of historical prisoner surveys. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, DOI: 10.1080/13645579.2020.1853877
  • Quinn, A., Shaw, C., Hardwick, N., Meek, R., Moore, C., Ranns, H. and Sahni, S. (2020) Prisoner interpretations and expectations for the ethical governance of HMIP survey data. Criminal Justice Ethics 39:3, 163-182, DOI: 10.1080/0731129X.2020.1859298

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