A Survey in Prison

Posted: May 14, 2012 by Ed Griffin in Prison, Reform
Tags: , , , , , , ,


surveyJack was a skinny guy in my prison class back in 03-04. He had a great sense of humor, but he was fascinated by life in the penitentiary. “I couldn’t get a pass to see the doctor,” someone would say and Jack would question every aspect of it. “Did you fill out the proper form? Did you have to do it twice? If it’s not private, can you tell me what you wrote for the reason?”

Another person might have gotten a black eye for so many questions, but Jack always sounded sincerely interested in what people said and the men just figured that was his way.

However, on December 30th, 2003, Jack distributed two hundred and fifty questionnaires to the men in general population.  Over the course of the next week, he got eighty-seven completed surveys.

Here’s just a few of the subjects he developed questions for

  • Have Programs Helped?
  • Nurses, Doctors, Dentists, Psychologists, Staff ratings –not individuals, but were the men satisfied?
  • How could health services be improved?
  • How could staff relations be improved?

I’m summarizing here, but there were thirty-one questions in all. When he put the results together, he issued a report. In a prologue he mentioned the surveys strength (one-third of the men in the prison responded—a very good sample) and its weaknesses (he had no access to scientific survey material, no comparisons, no help from a university)

A example question was number 7. He gave a commentary, a statistical summary(not here) and a graph.

Question 7  How would you rate the services of the nursing staff?

Poor                 Adequate                      Good                Excellent           I Don’t Go

The nursing staff received the highest overall approval rating of the five professional categories surveyed.  More than three quarters of the men of Matsqui rated the nurses in a favourable light.  One nurse was singled out in several of the surveys as incompetent or hazardous.  If it weren’t for her, the rating would have been more positive.  Two nurses were mentioned as outstanding.  Five respondents indicated they don’t go, and one did graphnot answer this question.  Chart 7 displays the data from the remaining replies.(I can’t seem to copy the graph with responses in blue– adequate almost 40%, poor just over 20%)

At the end, Jack and the other men on the inmate committee made 13 recommendations, a sample of which:

  • Truly involve a man in the creation of a realistic Correctional Plan.   Review and revamp all Correctional Plans to reflect a balanced approach to rehabilitation, including methods such as:  Learning a Trade, Higher Education, Individual Counselling, Drug Therapies, Medical Treatment, Sports and Leisure, and Social Contact.       
  • “Better Food” tops the list of any concern posited by the men.  Substantially increase the allowed yearly spending limits so that one may order food from savings.
  • Lift the moratorium on computers.  In addition, create a computer center with limited Internet capabilities.  Allow responsible prisoners full access to the Internet on their personal computers.
  • Relieve IPO’s (Internal Parole Officers – like social workers) from mundane tasks.
  • Eliminate the use of the words ‘inmate’ and ‘offender.’  They are unnecessary and derogatory.  Do not replace those words with other euphemisms

If anyone would like to see the whole report, I’d be happy to send it to you.

The survey was submitted to management? Result = Nothing

Images courtesy of

  • survey-reviews.net
  • historymatters.gmu.edu


  1. Heather says:

    I’m impressed with the gentleman’s diligence and integrity. It seems he did everything right and his work deserves comment from the system. I would like to see the rest of the report….and would I have permission to forward it to a friend/neighbour who is entering the field as a guard at a women’s facility?

  2. Laurel Lafaut says:

    I would love to have a copy of the report.

  3. Joe Pineda says:

    His curiosity and subsequent dedication are both admirable. I never knew things like these happened in prisons.

  4. Joanne says:

    It is so good to see someone taking on such an important and time-consuming task and seeing it through to its conclusion. I too would love to see the full report.

    I particularly enjoyed reading the recommendations and especially agree with the first one. I believe it is very important for people to be involved in their own future plans; otherwise, they are not as likely to be invested in the process. Enough of CSC staff assuming they know best! They can offer guidance, sure, but the Correctional Plan needs to be collaborative and comprehensive.

    Thanks to the person who developed and ran this survey and thanks to Ed for sharing it with us.

  5. Inquiry minds want to know and he was an inquisitive one. His efforts will go down in history as very important one day. We must never stop trying or believing in the possiblities. I wouldn’t mind a copy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s