Engaging offenders on probation in health research: lessons from the field
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Engaging offenders on probation in health research: lessons from the field

Coral Sirdifield Research fellow, University of Lincoln, Lincoln
Sara Owen Head of the College of Social Science, University of Lincoln, Lincoln
Charlie Brooker Honorary professor, Royal Holloway, University of London, London

Background Offenders on probation are considered to be ‘hard to reach’ by researchers because probation is a ‘closed setting’ and engaging offenders in research can be problematic due to issues such as return to custody and chaotic lifestyles.

Aim To share learning about the challenges encountered when undertaking research with offenders on probation in the UK, strategies for overcoming them and the implications for research design and outcomes.

Discussion The authors identify challenges in gaining and maintaining access; recruitment; ethics; data collection and analysis; and dissemination of findings. They also consider the implications of these challenges for research design and outcomes.

Conclusion Engaging offenders in research takes time and effort to gain and maintain access. Researchers need to be persistent and flexible. The potential influence of gatekeepers on recruitment and outcomes is critical and constant communication needs to be maintained. When designing and resourcing projects, researchers must consider the transient nature of the population as well as the need to communicate any potential limits of confidentiality.

Implications for practice The lessons learned will be helpful for future research in this field, which is needed to provide data for healthcare commissioners to inform the provision of patient-centred care for this vulnerable and hard-to-reach population.

Nurse Researcher. 24, 2, 18-23. doi: 10.7748/nr.2016.e1448



Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software

Conflict of interest

The study referred to in this paper was commissioned by the National Institute for Health Research under the ‘research for patient benefit’ programme. The views expressed in this report are those of the authors

Received: 11 November 2015

Accepted: 01 April 2016

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