Working with trauma in a prison setting


The following chapter draws on the authors' experience of working with young people (children and adolescents) with offending histories within community youth offending teams, secure children's homes and a young offenders institution (YOI). While the chapter focuses particularly on the adolescent population in prison, it is the authors' view that the developmental perspectives and systemic approaches described within the chapter have meaning and value for understanding clients' behaviour and our approaches to it within the wider mental health and criminal justice systems. The first part of the chapter explores trauma theory in simple terms and relates it to our evolutionary responses, and experience of attachment and brain development through childhood. It examines the concept of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) including definitions of trauma, the symptoms required for diagnosis and the recommendations from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) for interventions. It discusses interventions including trauma-focused cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) or eye-movement desensitisation reprocessing (EMDR) and reviews them in the context of working in the prison system. A case study then illustrates a systemic approach to addressing the needs of young people with complex trauma histories within prisons. The final part of the chapter describes some of the particular opportunities, challenges and ethical dilemmas that can be encountered when working with this client group and highlights the need to incorporate an understanding of trauma and its effects on the treatment rationale of many young people in prison.


Book Section




Andrew Rogers
Heather Law

Original Work Citation

Rogers, A., & Law, H. (2010). Working with trauma in a prison setting. In J. Harvey, and K. Smedley (Eds.), Psychological therapy in prisons and other secure settings (pp. 150-175). Devon, United Kingdom: Willan Publishing



“Working with trauma in a prison setting,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed September 27, 2020,

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