Sharing a prison cell can be a difficult experience and yet levels of overcrowding mean that staff must often decide which individuals should be placed in a cell together. Little is known about how staff make such decisions or what factors prisoners believe should be considered to minimize the potential stressors associated with cell-sharing. This study addresses this gap in knowledge by examining what factors staff consider when allocating cells and what factors matter to prisoners. Fifty-two staff and adult male prisoners in Northern Ireland were interviewed about their experiences of cell-sharing and cell allocation decision-making. The findings reveal that current policy does not cover many factors staff consider in practice when allocating cells and identifies additional factors staff and prisoners regard as important. How the disempowerment prisoners feel when they lack an opportunity to contribute to cell allocation decision-making processes can contribute to violence, disorder and distress is also highlighted. These findings point to a need to develop cell allocation decision-making processes to incorporate opportunities for prisoners to have a voice in this process, in accordance with the principles of procedural justice. Additionally, staff training and guidance on weighing up a more varied range of factors than is currently considered in policy is required.
- Decision Making
- Procedural Justice