Cardiff Metropolitan University
The therapeutic potential of a prison based animal programme- Mercer J.pdf (291.83 kB)
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The therapeutic potential of a prison-based animal programme in the UK

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journal contribution
posted on 2022-04-07, 16:29 authored by Jenny Mercer, Kerry Gibson, Debbie Clayton

 Purpose – Much evidence suggests that animals can serve as therapeutic tools for those working with vulnerable individuals. This exploratory study analysed the accounts of staff and offenders involved in a UK prison-based animal programme. The purpose of this paper was to explore the perceived impact of such a programme with male offenders. Design/methodology/approach – Semi-structured interviews were conducted with three service users and five staff members. Participants were drawn from a special unit in a category B prison which housed an animal centre. Findings – A thematic analysis identified four salient themes: a sense of responsibility, building trust, enhanced communication, and impact on mood and behaviour. Findings revealed that offenders seemed to gain particular benefit from interacting with the two Labrador dogs which were present on the wing. Practical implications – The study highlights the therapeutic potential of the presence of animals in prisons. Their implications of this for forensic practice are discussed. Originality/value – This paper offers an important contribution to the sparse literature about prison-based animal programmes in the UK. 


Published in

The Journal of Forensic Practice




  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)


Mercer, J., Gibson, K. and Clayton, D., (2015) 'The therapeutic potential of a prison-based animal programme in the UK', Journal of Forensic Practice, 17(1), pp.43-54

Print ISSN


Cardiff Met Affiliation

  • Cardiff School of Sport and Health Sciences

Cardiff Met Authors

Jenny Mercer Debbie Clayton

Cardiff Met Research Centre/Group

  • Public Health and Wellbeing

Copyright Holder

  • © The Publisher


  • en