In July 2017, two former students from the Law Department were invited to conduct research for the Governor at HMP Stafford. Tawney Bennett and Amber Mapledoram both graduated with a first class law degree in July. The two aspiring criminologists were invited to carry out research about complaints made by prisoners at HMP Stafford.
Following the completion of our final year exams, Amber and I were selected to take part in a collaborative research and analysis project with HMP Stafford. We were asked by the governor to provide an independent analysis of the current prisoner complaints system and offer recommendations on how it can be improved. On completion, the report will be published for both staff and prisoners to have access to our findings. Further to this, we are currently undertaking a second research project on behalf of the deputy prison governor, which remains confidential at this time.
After undergoing a vigorous vetting check, we obtained the iconic prison guard accessories, the belt and chain used to draw a set of keys. This gave us unrestricted access to the prison estate to begin our research.
We began by familiarising ourselves with the facilities, touring the wings and speaking to the prison staff. Following this we moved onto the data collation and analysis, coding and analysing in excess of 1700 prisoner complaints. We also compiled a questionnaire for residents of the prison to complete, in order to provide us with a general overview of how the prisoners felt about the complaints process. Our next step in our research is to conduct intensive interviews with a small sample of inmates, in order to explore their perspectives in greater depth.
Amber and I have had the privilege of working closely with both the governor and deputy governor of HMP Stafford, accessing confidential information that is inaccessible to the general public. An incredibly eye-opening experience for any lay person, the opportunity has heightened our interest in the field of prisons and punishment and further enhanced our researching skills ready for progression onto further post-graduate study. We have been given an unprecedented insight into the prison estate and we hope to continue our partnership with HMP Stafford on many more research projects in the near future.
Tawney Bennett, LLB