Does PTSD predict institutional violence within a UK male prison population? [2018]

Given the amount of research examining the association between trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with aggression and violence, few studies have focussed on a UK prison population. Additionally, few have examined the relationship between PTSD symptoms, aggression and violence perpetrated in custody. The purpose of this paper is to explore the association between PTSD and violence against the person in prison, and the association between PTSD and having a conviction for violence against the person.

The sample consisted of 110 participants from a male prison in England (young offenders and adult prisoners). They were assessed for PTSD symptoms using the Detailed Assessment of Posttraumatic Stress (DAPS; Briere, 2001), their criminal history and custodial behaviour was analysed.

The findings revealed that symptoms of PTSD were significantly associated with violence in prison, however, symptoms of PTSD were not found to be significantly associated with having a violent conviction. Further analysis using logistic regression found having a violent conviction, age and PTSD symptoms were significant predictors of violence in prison.

Research limitations/implications
The limitations of this study are the reliance on a self-report measure to assess symptoms of PTSD, the small sample size and the absence of a control group.

Practical implications
The results highlighted the need for staff training and the availability of a service to assess and treat PTSD. This would increase the well-being of offenders and support the current HM Prison Service violence reduction strategies.

This study provides new research into the UK prison population.

Kirsten McCallum

Journal of Forensic Practice, Vol. 20 Issue: 4, 2018