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Joe Simmonds, Researcher

Photograph of Joe Simmonds.

I joined the Inspectorate as a research officer in November 2012. Each year, the Inspectorate offers two research trainee places for students in the third year of their degree. In 2010–11, I was a trainee here while in my third year of studying psychology at the University of Bath. Throughout my degree I received extensive training in research methods.

My main role is conducting the prisoner survey. The prisoner voice is at the heart of our inspections and the survey is vital. Researchers go into each prison at the start of an inspection. We hand out and collect questionnaires from a sample of prisoners. The questionnaires are confidential and anonymous, unless a prisoner wants to give their name.

Back in the office we analyse the data, comparing it to data from other establishments of a similar type and from the establishment the last time it was inspected. We also compare findings within the prison, for example the views of black and minority ethnic prisoners to those of white prisoners.

Before starting this job I had never been in a prison or any other place of detention. It’s a completely different environment and takes a lot of getting used to! No two establishments are the same, which means you can never assume that the way of conducting a survey in one establishment will work in another. This challenge is one of the best parts of the job as you are always kept on your toes.

I am lucky to work within a team of researchers who are constantly applying new statistical tests to the data we collect, and this helps to expand my skills. Every day is different because prisons are always changing.