Exploration of delivering brief interventions in a prison setting: A qualitative study in one English region

Aisha Holloway, Arun Sondhi, Jennifer Birch, Kieran Lynch, Dorothy Newbury-Birch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aims: There is evidence that alcohol is strongly correlated with offending. This qualitative study explored the views of staff on the efficacy of alcohol brief interventions within a prison setting. The perceptions of prisoners in relation to non-dependent drinking were also examined.
Methods: Nine prisons in one English region took part in this research. Five focus groups with 25 prisoners were undertaken with prisoners alongside focus group discussions with 30 professionals. Discussions were recorded using shorthand notation and the main themes were thematically mapped using visual mapping techniques.
Findings: The use of the Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test (AUDIT) was perceived as problematic. Prisoner drinking norms differed widely from community consumption patterns. There were also operational issues that reduced the salience of a brief intervention for prisoners.
Conclusions: The delivery of screening and brief interventions within a prison setting is highly nuanced and fraught with inconsistencies. Despite these challenges, there are opportunities to develop coherent and tailored brief interventions for a custodial environment that should focus on developing three key areas around: (a) interventions for the point of release; (b) enhanced content around family impact and offending; and (c) forward-looking goal-setting as motivational tools to facilitate change.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages26
JournalDrugs: Education, Prevention, and Policy
Early online date19 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - 19 May 2016


  • alcohol
  • screening
  • brief interventions
  • prison
  • qualitative


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