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Challenges for prison governors and staff in implementing the Healthy Prisons Agenda in English prisons

Ismail, Nasrul; de Viggiani, Nick


Nasrul Ismail
Associate Lecturer - HAS - HSS - UHSS0001


© 2018 The Royal Society for Public Health Objectives: In the two decades that have passed since the World Health Organisation established the Healthy Prisons Agenda, there has been no research conducted to investigate barriers and challenges prison managerial and operational staff encounter in implementing the Agenda in the English prison context. This article debates sectoral, institutional and occupational challenges perceived to hinder effective implementation of the Agenda, based on a qualitative study involving prison governors and operational staff. Study design: Qualitative study taking a grounded theory approach. Methods: Semistructured interviews were conducted with 30 participants comprising prison governors, prison officers and external stakeholders with key strategic and operational roles across the prison estate. The interviews were analysed and coded into themes using constant comparative method. Results: The research identified a range of managerial and operational factors that impeded recognition, acceptance and successful implementation of the Healthy Prisons Agenda. These were found to be associated with scarcity of resources, low prioritisation, perceived low importance, and pressures at operational, managerial and strategic levels to adhere to standard operating procedures. Security, control and discipline tended to supersede other imperatives considered of secondary importance to the effective running of prisons. Conclusions: Sustainability of the Healthy Prisons Agenda can only be assured by raising its significance and importance across prison hierarchies and within policies and practices through which operational and strategic objectives are realised. This means achieving wholesale commitment by prisons—among staff at all levels—towards public health goals that are fundamental to a successful and effective criminal justice system.


Ismail, N., & de Viggiani, N. (2018). Challenges for prison governors and staff in implementing the Healthy Prisons Agenda in English prisons. Public Health, 162, 91-97.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 2, 2018
Online Publication Date Jun 7, 2018
Publication Date Sep 1, 2018
Deposit Date Jul 9, 2018
Publicly Available Date Jul 7, 2019
Journal Public Health
Print ISSN 0033-3506
Electronic ISSN 1476-5616
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 162
Pages 91-97
Keywords Healthy Prisons Agenda, healthy prisons, prisons, prison governors, prison staff, England
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : This is the author's accepted manuscript. The final published version is available here:


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