Assessing and Managing Institutional Violence in Singapore Prison Service: Looking Beyond the Individual

Miss  Sarah Lavinia Joseph1, Miss Priyathanaa Kalyanasundram1, Mr Wayne Ferroa1
1Singapore Prison Service, Singapore, Singapore

Violence in correctional institutions, be it between persons incarcerated, or against correctional staff, can cause considerable physical and psychological harm. Approaches towards understanding and managing institutional violence have traditionally been focused on individual-oriented factors. PRISM (Promoting Risk Intervention by Situational Management) is a tool which shifts the paradigm towards a consideration of situational risk factors, and its’ contribution to institutional violence. It comprises a set of structured professional guidelines and a systematic protocol which guides the assessment and management of violence risk in correctional institutions.

Given its novel and progressive approach, Singapore Prison Service (SPS) trialled PRISM within two institutions. The researchers collected various information from different sources (e.g. interviews with inmates and officers; questionnaire data) to triangulate data, and sought consultation with the authors for the purpose for the study. Situational risk factors, including organizational factors and physical and security factors, which influenced the risk of violence within institutions were identified across the two institutions. Based on the identified factors, recommendations were developed and proposed to each institution, with the aim of violence reduction. A follow-up at the one-year mark within one of the institutions revealed positive changes to some of the problematic features, which also coincided with a decrease in violence rates. The findings from SPS may easily be extended to other closed psychiatric or custodial settings including Halfway Houses or Juvenile Homes. The process of the PRISM approach, including the benefits and challenges during the trial will also be highlighted.


Priyathanaa Sundram is a psychologist who has been working in the Singapore Prison Service for five years. She received a Bachelor of Social Sciences (Psychology) (Hons) (2nd Upper) from the National University of Singapore in 2013. She mainly works with adult male sexual and violent offenders, conducting risk assessments as well as providing psychological intervention programmes.

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