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Exploring hate crime amongst a cohort of Scottish prisoners: an exploratory study

Kirsty Penrice (Department of Psychology, Scottish Prison Service, Edinburgh, UK)
Philip Birch (Centre for Law and Justice, Charles Sturt University, Port Macquarie, Australia)
Stephan McAlpine (Scottish Prison Service, Edinburgh, UK)

Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice

ISSN: 2056-3841

Article publication date: 1 March 2019

Issue publication date: 7 March 2019




The purpose of this paper is to explore the motives a person adopts in order to engage in hate-related behaviours within a prison setting. A subsidiary aim of the study was to compare this cohort of prisoners with prisoners who have been convicted for aggravated racism in the community.


In order to gather data, an exploratory research design was adopted, utilising the method of semi-structured interviews. In total, a number of nine interviews were conducted. Qualitative analysis was then employed allowing for an examination of meaning in relation to the motives behind the commission of hate crimes to occur.


The findings revealed the presence of racist beliefs and attitudes in both groups involved in the study. Further similarities between the two groups included the perception of inequality and beliefs about racism. The differences between the two groups included poor emotional regulation and an inability to manage beliefs and subsequent behaviours about people from different ethnic groups, with those in custody seeming to be more reactive.

Practical implications

The findings provide a preliminary insight into enhancing inmate safety. The environmental implications begin to reveal the complexity of hate-related behaviours in custody. There are differences between the context of hate crime committed in a prison environment compared to that committed in the community that require different solutions for addressing such behaviour. Further implications are considered in the final section of the paper.


A large body of research has been conducted on prison violence, seldom does this research examine this issue within the context of hate crime. This preliminary study offers an insight into prison-based hate crime.



Penrice, K., Birch, P. and McAlpine, S. (2019), "Exploring hate crime amongst a cohort of Scottish prisoners: an exploratory study", Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice, Vol. 5 No. 1, pp. 39-49.



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