The ‘Measuring the Quality of Prison Life’ (MQPL) survey is designed to help us understand the contemporary experience of imprisonment and prison life and their impacts. The prison experience is seen as multidimensional. When the everyday experience of convicts and prison staff was examined, several key dimensions were identified: respect, humanity, staff-prisoner relations, support, trust, fairness, order, safety, well-being, personal development, family contacts, power, meaning and decency.
Researching Quality of Life in Prisons: the Focus on Criminology
Over the last three decades, interest in research of quality of life in the international and national scientific and professional public is increased. The concept of quality of life in prisons is explained by the assumption that convicts may respond better to treatment in correctional institutions if their satisfaction is higher. Numerous authors have analyzed the importance of the quality of prison life through its relation to resocialization and reduction of recidivism or risk of crime as the ultimate rehabilitation goals and tried to determine which factors affect it.
One of the first criminologists to focus research interest on the quality of life in prisons was Alison Liebling, Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Cambridge and the Director of the Institute of Criminology’s Prisons Research Centre. A series of empirical and theoretical research focused on the quality of life in prison has attempted to provide the conceptual and methodological foundation for understanding prison life, including the nature, quality, management, and effects of prisons.
‘Measuring the Quality of Prison Life’ Survey
The complexity of this construct has resulted in the emergence of a multidimensional instrument designed to evaluate it. The ‘Measuring the Quality of Prison Life’ (MQPL) survey is designed to help us understand the contemporary experience of imprisonment and prison life and their impacts. The prison experience is seen as multidimensional. When the everyday experience of convicts and prison staff was examined, several key dimensions were identified: respect, humanity, staff-prisoner relations, support, trust, fairness, order, safety, well-being, personal development, family contacts, power, meaning and decency.
Understanding the Prisoner’s Experience
The final dimension set of the MQPL survey is thematically grouped into five overarching categories: harmony dimensions; professionalism dimensions; security dimensions; conditions and family contact dimensions; and wellbeing and development dimensions. The aforementioned represents a carefully balanced conceptual framework for re-thinking the moral quality of prison based on the prisoner’s experience. This survey is a tool for reconsideration and analysis, as well as for “identification of symptoms” that are indicators of moral failures and the pursuit of legitimacy, as explained by the MQPL author, prof. Liebling.
The harmony dimensions represent mainly interpersonal and relational aspects of the prison experience. This category consists of entry into custody, respect/courtesy, staff–prisoner relationships, humanity, decency, care for the vulnerable, as well as help and assistance.
The professionalism dimensions refer to essential features of the prison work as a job, which include communication skills, competence, knowledge, experience, and expertise, internalised and organisational values. Professionalism dimensions are composed of staff professionalism, bureaucratic legitimacy, fairness, organisation and consistency.
Safety and Wellbeing of Prisoners
The security dimensions refer to the rule of law and the adequate enforcement, regulations and security, and incorporate prisoner safety, prisoner adaptation, and drugs and exploitation. In other words, those are the rule of law, proper use of authority, behaviour regulation, and the provision of safety.
Next, conditions and family contact are the aspects of the Conditions and family contact dimensions. The wellbeing and development dimensions are associated with personal development, personal autonomy, wellbeing, and distress. Overall, it is related to how prisoners perceive their wellbeing, what is their capacity to act autonomously, what is the level of support for their personal development, etc.