A report published by Catch 22 in conjunction with the Youth Justice Board was launched in the UK today. The report explores the nature and impact of gang involvement among prisoners. Research in this area has been largely neglected both in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The lack of analysis in this area has made effective policy and practice implementation difficult. However the report ‘Gangs in Prison: The nature and impact of gang involvement among prisoners’ is welcomed as providing UK policy makers with evidence-based information to aid future policy development in this area.
Catch22’s Dawes Unit took advantage of its links with HMP Thameside, London where Catch22 deliver a gangs service, to explore gang association in custody. The research analysed the impact of gangs on the prison regime. It highlighted the prison's rehabilitative role to encourage prisoners involved in gangs to remove themselves from gang affiliations upon release into the community.
A loose territoriality was said to exist in relation to the manner in which many prisoners build relationships whilst in custody. The report found that more entrenched gang members were in the main more hostile and territorial. In many circumstances, conflict was found to have been created within the prison environment through the formation of alliances, competition for status and demonstrations of ‘loyalty’.
However the report identifies several intervening points at which prisons may tackle gang involvement and reduce the negative impact of gangs in prison substantially. The report isolated the ‘teachable moments’ in prison which consists of prisoners questioning their involvement with gangs, the values of gang relationships and finally preparing to remove themselves from gang affiliations.
The findings of the report lead to the creation of a specific model for prisons tackling issues of gang membership: the ‘Catch22 approach to managing and addressing gang involvement in prison’. This approach was found to have had a positive impact in HMP Thameside prison as the levels of gang-related violence has fallen significantly since its implementation.