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User Voice Council Model: Only offenders can stop re-offending


It must be stressed that the project is in its infancy. However, User Voice commissioned So What?, to train ex-offenders in detailed interviewing of prisoners, staff, and governors. This helped provide an understanding of where the model was working, its benefits and possible problems that could be remedied to enhance the project’s impact and scope. 

Even within the short time span of its existence, there have already been positive outcomes linked to the model. From interviews with prisoners the following benefits were identified to have resulted. Councils were:

  • Inclusive - giving prisoners a voice, with their input being heard.
  • Enabled better exchange of information and discussion.
  • Improved communication, clarity of decision-making, and the process of making proposals.
  • Improved prisoner’s access to prison officers, governors and senior staff.

Prison councils have typically resulted in changes such as revised family day and family visiting arrangements (including longer visiting time slots for long-term prisoners); adjustments to incentives, earnings, and privileges schemes; and dietary changes, including one change in canteen supplier.

A council member commented that he found the project to be constructive because:  ‘it allows me to represent the wing, to be part and parcel of the system that causes change.’

Governors and senior staff admitted initial scepticism but felt that the project had been a success. These attitudes were encapsulated by the HMP Isle of Wight Governor who said: ‘at first I thought it would crash and burn, that we would all put a lot of energy into it and it wouldn’t work – but I am glad to say I have been proved wrong’.

Staff members highlighted the following benefits as a result of the project:

  • The councils helped with prison management as prisoners are easier to work with when happier and councils help reduce conflicts.
  • A successful council frees up staff resources.
  • Councils engage, educate and build the confidence of prisoners. 



About this case study
Main Contact

Jeff Ogden

Engagement Officer

Tel: 020 3137 7471


Frankie Hine-Hughes, project manager of Governance International, compiled this case study on 9 August 2011.

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