Failing Communication with Inmates: An Explorative Study of the Content of the Letters from the Correctional Services


An important part of the communication between the correctional authorities and convicted persons presupposes the ability to read and write. Reading skills among prisoners have been stated as a significant problem in a large number of studies. The written language in the Norwegian public sector has been reviewed in the last five years to improve language and decrease costs based on misunderstandings. The aim was to explore the prevalence and nature of reading problems associated to letters from the correctional service to the inmates. A cross-sectional study using a semi-structured questionnaire (n = 190) where all participants were convicted persons was used. The selection was consecutive over a period of six months. The response rate was 95%. Most inmates understood the letters (78%), but the rate of difficult words in the letter was described by 63%. The difficulties were correlated to the different security levels, giving more difficulties in the most restrictive placements. Letters responding to the participants’ applications were rated as more difficult. A significant proportion of the Norwegian convicted persons reported problems in understanding parts of the letters sent to them. The consequences were in some cases humiliating and might have potential of breaching the personal legal protection.

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Søndenaa, E. , Wangsholm, M. and Iversen, V. (2015) Failing Communication with Inmates: An Explorative Study of the Content of the Letters from the Correctional Services. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 3, 144-149. doi: 10.4236/jss.2015.33023.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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