Centre for Empirical Legal Studies


A Study of the Democratic Therapeutic Community at HMP Send
Directed by: Elaine Genders (UCL) Elaine Player (KCL)

A number of democratic therapeutic communities now exist within the male prison system. The community at Send is the first prison democratic therapeutic community to be established for women. Given the different demographic profile of the women’s prison population, their different criminogenic needs and differences in the structure and culture of the women’s prison system, it is likely that the culture of the community and the experience of therapy at Send will differ from that of a male community.

The programme of research sets out to understand the social organisation of the therapeutic community at HMP Send and how it functions. Comparisons will be drawn with what is known about the social organisation and functioning of the male therapeutic community at Grendon.

Specific areas of examination include:

  • the structural context of the TC and its relationship with the host prison;
  • the therapeutic process and how it is experienced by women prisoners;
  • the gendered nature of the women’s therapeutic needs and the ways these are addressed by and shape therapeutic activities;
  • the process of selection, exploring existing ideas about ‘suitable’ and ‘unsuitable’ candidates for entry to the therapeutic community;
  • factors that exacerbate or mediate the process of attrition whereby some women leave prematurely;.
  • the concept of a therapeutic career for women in the therapeutic community as well as how therapeutic achievements may vary for different groups eg lifers, different ethnic groups, women with a history of self-harm etc.
  • the identification of criteria by which the therapeutic community may be judged, including evaluation of post-transfer and post-release behaviour.

These questions require a varied methodology, including record analysis, semi-structured interviews, observational work and focus group discussion.

For queries or further information about the project please contact Elaine Genders: e.genders@ucl.ac.uk