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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Journal of Forensic Practice, Volume 16, Issue 3.
Welcome to issue 3 of the Journal of Forensic Practice. This issue presents six qualitative papers which each outline the contribution of qualitative methodologies to forensic research and practice.
The first paper is an invited paper by Barbara Cooke and Professor David Farrington investigating the perceived effects of dog-training programmes in correctional settings. The paper describes the increasing use of offender-led dog-training programmes throughout US correctional facilities, outlining the literature on these programmes and the reported benefits of participation. This study examines the opinions of programme coordinators and staff from 13 programmes using an open-ended questionnaire to measure the perceived effects. The paper outlines how respondents noted improvements in several factors including impulsivity, self-efficacy, empathy, social skills, emotional intelligence and employability. The authors note that although this study had a relatively small sample size; and that there is a need for well-designed, larger scale evaluations; the current findings add to the literature base supporting the view that prison-based dog-training programmes should be implemented in other countries.
The following two papers use staff populations. Marilyn Sher and Ernest Gralton's paper explores the implementation of the START:AV in a medium secure adolescent service in the UK. They survey the views of multi-disciplinary staff on their views about its implementation. Qualitative information was collated to explore themes, and frequency analysis is undertaken on the quantitative information. The paper outlines that the qualitative data on the implementation of the START:AV highlights a number of strengths and challenges, communicating significant support for the START:AV in relation to it being a dynamic assessment to measure change. Interestingly, the sample noted that the process of rating the START:AV as a team improved communication and teamwork, and further generated discussion and improved the detailed understanding of the patient being rated. However, some difficulties emerged regarding making finer distinctions in ratings as well as completing risk formulations, highlighting further training needs. Additional difficulties are discussed. The authors outline recommendations for the implementation and evaluation of new risk assessments.
The next paper by Camilla Haw, Jean Stubbs and Geoffrey Dickens explores nurses’ views about unlicensed and off-license medicines in forensic mental health settings. A sample of 50 mental health nurses working in low and medium secure adolescent and adult mental health wards were presented with a clinical vignette about administration of unlicensed and off-license medicines and semi-structured interviews were conducted to explore their likely clinical response to this practice. Thematic analysis identified six themes which support the conclusion that forensic mental health nurses take a pragmatic approach to the practice of administering unlicensed medicines and most are aware of their professional responsibilities.
The next set of papers use client samples. The first paper by Niamh Kennedy uses interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) in the investigation of male prisoners’ experience of riotous behaviour in one maximum secure adult male prison. A purposive sampling method is used and in-depth semi-structured interviews carried out with IPA being used to identify themes that are considered in relation to existing theory. In short, the research reports on super-ordinate themes that emerged on the subject of social processing and relationships, with the research lending support to earlier theory on prison adjustment and socio-psychological explanations for rioting. Whilst it is not assumed that the findings of this study can be universally applied, this research may provide greater insight into the motivational factors related to individuals involved in riotous behaviour. The paper also outlines practical implications to prevent such behaviours in the future.
Alice Bennett's paper then explores service-users’ hopes and expectations of a psychologically informed planned environment (PIPE) located in the high-security prison estate. Here semi-structured interviews are used to explore the hopes and expectations of five male “Category A” PIPE prisoners. Thematic analysis resulted in two overall themes: “Progression” and “Being Part of a Community”. Relevant sub-themes were considered to portray processes within these two wider themes. This is the first known study that explores service-users’ hopes and expectations of the pilot PIPE service which is important given that PIPEs are included within the recently introduced offender personality disorder pathway. In applying these findings to practice, the study provides evidence that places value on the current referral process which ascertains prisoners’ motivations to attend the PIPE.
The final paper in this issue by Lucy Lovell and Gillian Hardy explores the lived experience of having a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder (BPD) in a forensic setting. Using IPA, eight semi-structured interview transcripts from a sample of female clients with a diagnosis of BPD are analysed. Whilst the authors acknowledge the heterogeneous nature of the sample, good quality control and the similarities with previous findings indicate that this study makes a valuable contribution to the understanding of BPD in a forensic setting. In addition it has implications for further research; exploring sense of self and the differences between a community and forensic sample with a diagnosis of BPD.
Neil Gredecki and Carol A. Ireland