U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Problems and Needs of Newly Sentenced Prisoners: Results From a National Survey

NCJ Number
Duncan Stewart
Date Published
October 2008
34 pages
Results are presented from a large longitudinal survey of newly sentenced adult prisoners within England and Wales, and describe the range of problems experienced by prisoners before the start of their sentence, and the extent to which prisoners felt they needed help and support for these problems during custody.
Highlights of key findings include: (1) prisoners started their sentence with a range of substantial health and social problems; (2) nearly half the sample had been unemployed in the year before custody and 13 percent had never had a job, 58 percent had truanted from school regularly, and 46 percent had no qualifications; (3) 15 percent were living in temporary accommodations or were homeless before custody, this was more common among short-term and adult prisoners; (4) a quarter reported at least one long-standing illness or disability, but two-thirds of prisoners regarded themselves to be in good health; (5) the prevalence of mental health problems was high, 10 percent of the sample was identified as likely to have a psychotic disorder and 61 percent a personality disorder; (6) the majority of prisoners had used illegal drugs during the year before custody, over half had used cannabis and a third had used heroin and crack cocaine; (7) 36 percent of the sample reported heavy drinking (drinking more than twice the recommended sensible daily limits); and (8) prisoners tended to prioritize employment and skills deficits over health and family problems in terms of the help they wanted during their sentence. The findings illustrate the difficult decisions faced by offender managers and others who have to prioritize interventions and resettlement support according to individuals’ needs. Rigorous assessment of prisoners’ needs on reception is essential. This is the first report from a large national longitudinal survey, Surveying Prisoner Crime Reduction, of newly sentenced adult prisoners. The survey sought to measure how prisoners’ problems are addressed during and after custody and the combined effect of any support or interventions on offending and other outcomes. This report describes the problems and needs of 1,457 prisoners before the start of their sentence. Tables, figures, references, and appendix