Risk factors such as impulsivity, low self-control, and attentional difficulties increase the risk of juvenile offending and of future criminal behaviour. Mindfulness-based interventions have shown promise across diverse populations for increasing self-management skills, improving quality of life, and tempering impulsive drives. This study tested the feasibility, acceptability, accessibility and potential effectiveness of a bespoke 10-week mindfulness-based course for incarcerated young men.
Thirty-five participants completed validated outcome measures before and after the course. Semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted with 20 young men (completers and non-completers), and staff in the Young Offenders Institute to garner their views on the course. Qualitative data were analysed thematically.
Paired t-tests revealed highly significant improvements in impulsivity (p=0.001), mental wellbeing (p=0.003), mindfulness (p=0.03), and one aspect of inner resilience (p=0.03), but not in emotional regulatory skills (p=0.09). During interviews, most young men reported having found the course strange at first, but this perception changed as benefits were experienced. The ‘body scan’ and ‘breathing’ techniques were perceived by them as most helpful. A range of positive changes were described, such as improved sleep, feeling better, having better relationships, and being able to manage anger, stress, and impulsivity.
A bespoke mindfulness-based course for incarcerated young men was iteratively developed and evaluated. Numerous modifications were required to increase acceptability and accessibility to the young men. Findings demonstrate that it is feasible to deliver a bespoke mindfulness course, with findings supporting potential effectiveness. Further research with a larger sample size and a more robust study design could test these findings more definitively.
Sharon is a clinical academic based at the University of Glasgow. Her undergraduate training was in Forensic Psychobiology, with further post-graduate training in mindfulness, person-‐centred, emotion-focused, and compassion-focused therapies. She holds a Masters degree in both Forensic Psychology and Counselling Psychology and is currently employed as a clinical researcher at the University of Glasgow where she is working towards a Doctorate Degree (PhD). In her clinical work, Sharon adopts an integrative approach, which employs a variety of techniques, both from contemporary psychological and eastern philosophical backgrounds. Her clinical experience has been formative in developing her research interests, which currently focus on examining how contemplative practices can be applied in underserved youth populations, with a view to facilitating self-efficacy and healing. Her current research aims to investigate the impact of mindfulness training on improving mental health and wellbeing. As a part of this body of work, Sharon has developed, piloted, and rigorously evaluated a bespoke mindfulness-‐based intervention for incarcerated young men in Scotland. Sharon is interested in the developmental trajectory of emotional reactivity and regulation and whether the application of mindfulness techniques may encourage both the formation and maturation of healthier and more adaptive response styles.