Restorative Practices in Prison: Every Conversation Matters
Prison Officers and Staff in prisons suffer from spending cuts which have reduced the numbers of staff on a wing. This means that goodwill on all sides is really important for safety. To build goodwill we devised a training programme for Prison Staff called Every Conversation Matters.
Communication usually precedes action therefore a respectful dialogue is less likely to generate a violent or abusive response.
In our Every Conversation Matters training, officers and staff are introduced to ways of communicating which are assertive yet respectful.
In the post questionnaire, staff are asked what they had learnt and how they would use what they had learnt in their daily roles. Responses to these questions are grouped into four themes below:
Improving communication skills
‘To think about what I’m saying before saying it’.
‘Words or choice of words is very important’.
‘Speaking to prisoners. To listen before reacting’.
‘Listen more to find out what the bigger picture is’.
‘To take more time in how I am coming across’.
‘Listening to both sides of the problem then trying to explain or reason’.
Dealing with confrontation
‘To de-escalate challenging situations’.
‘To make the job day to day better for all’.
‘To try and diffuse animosity and anger vented towards me’.
‘To resolve problems’.
‘Reduce stress and conflict’.
‘Everyone has needs to be met’.
‘Learnt how people feel – different things that make them act/ react in certain ways’.
‘That everyone has needs to be met. How we get there is what can be addressed’.
‘Be more understanding of other people’s needs’.
‘Identify needs and strategies to attain goals’.
‘Remember what both our needs are and how we will meet those needs’.
Reinforcement of current behaviour
Some staff comments reflected that they viewed the session as a reinforcement or refresher of what they already do. Their comments included:
‘I’ve learnt that the principles I employ in my approach to dealing with negative or resistant behaviour have grounding in the same philosophy being instructed today’.
‘I already use this but have been reminded to carry on using it’.
‘I am already using these skills, however I feel what I have learnt today has given me fresh ideas to help me to be a better communicator’.