Few inmates aware of third sector bodies operating in their prisons, says research

Third Sector Research Centre survey finds only 5 per cent of prisoners have any contact with voluntary organisations

Voluntary sector worker talking to a prisoner
Voluntary sector worker talking to a prisoner

Only a small proportion of prisoners engage with third sector organisations even though a large number of providers claim to work with offenders, research has shown.

A survey of 680 prisoners in eight prisons in England by the Third Sector Research Centre found that 5 per cent of respondents had been in touch with any third sector organisations.

Only a quarter of the prisoners had heard of the organisations operating in their establishments, although there were 116 third sector organisations operating in the prisons in the survey.

A previous report by the TSRC also showed that nearly 20,000 third sector organisations had reported being involved in working with offenders across the country.

The most common reasons for the lack of engagement highlighted by prisoners were that they were unaware of the service or felt that it could not help them.

The new report, Offender Engagement With Third Sector Organisations: A National Prison-based Survey, produced by a group of academics on behalf of the TSRC, said the findings highlighted the need for better promotion of services and improved communication between offenders, prison staff and third sector organisations.

The report says that "prison staff may not be aware of third sector organisations and their services and thus may be unable to refer prisoners to them; or third sector organisations may be over-reliant on written material to publicise their services in a population which has low levels of literacy".

It calls for greater use of third sector coordinators within prisons and for this role to be reviewed on a national level, because previous research had shown that many institutions lacked coordinators.

The report has been published as one of a series of studies investigating the involvement of the third sector in the criminal justice system.

Daniel Lombard recommends

Third Sector Research Centre

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