Action research methodology is well-suited to engaging with marginalised groups to inform policy and guide practice. Prisons are complex institutions with hierarchies of power; social systems that demand a research approach suited to social structure. The pilot project to be evaluated is designed to promote positive pregnancy and birth experiences for pregnant female prisoners and provide extraordinary learning opportunities for midwifery students. The project team includes staff from a regional university, the local health service and the state run prison service. Very early in the project it became evident that in addition to management patronage, the project needed the practical support of the Custodial Correctional Officers. Thus, officers as project ‘champions’ were recruited. Custodial Correctional Officers play an integral role in these social systems and although they are perceived to have power over prisoners, they too are subject to controls and in some instances have minimal power. The study will be conducted in two stages, the first of which will involve the Custodial Correctional Officers as participants, focus on the outcomes to date and how this may inform policy and practice. This article justifies the use of action research methodology for this purpose.
- Participatory action research
- prison officers
- social change