for better engagement, and effective change in Prisons
and the Criminal Justice System


Peter Garrett


“The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilisation of any country."
Winston Churchill - House of Commons Speech, 20 July 1910

Prison Dialogue is a not-for-profit charity that has been helping prisons, and other parts of the criminal justice system, to operate more effectively since 1993. The secret to our success lies in having developed the skills to enable groupings of people to talk and think together well, and thereby find and implement better solutions to their needs than had been considered previously. There are three particular areas where without dialogue the chances of sustained success are low.

These are when there are:

  • Significant power differences between participants – usually leading people to be inhibited to say what they really think

  • Conflicting cultural assumptions – often resulting in misunderstandings, attributions and judgements

  • Multiple stakeholders with different interests – generally making it difficult to get alignment and commitment to any course of action

These, of course, are commonly encountered in prisons and the extended criminal justice system. Good dialogue helps people to form better relationships, and encourages motivation, professionalism and self-confidence. For prisons it is as relevant to maximum as to low security facilities, because better engagement improves dynamic security, changes the culture and underwrites resettlement. We want to make available our practical experience of creating the conditions and conveying the skills for open communication and constructive dialogue for the benefit of executives, staff, offenders and the community.

We are releasing our case studies to inspire you to try a dialogic approach in your situation. We are offering guidance and consultation where needed to help you succeed. This includes easily-learnt dialogue skills, based on sound theory, which we have developed and proved in practical experience over two decades.


© Prison Dialogue 2013