A Review of Questionnaire Measures for Assessing the Social Climate in Prisons and Forensic Psychiatric Hospitals

Int J Offender Ther Comp Criminol. 2016 Sep;60(12):1376-405. doi: 10.1177/0306624X15578834. Epub 2015 Apr 6.


Significant time and resources are devoted to the monitoring of social climate in secure settings. However, if these efforts are to help (rather than hinder) attempts to improve the functioning of such units, the monitoring of social climate must be based on sound psychometric methods. The aim of this review was to determine what questionnaires exist to measure the social climate in secure settings and what evidence exists regarding their psychometric properties. Twelve questionnaire-based measures of social climate were identified. The Essen Climate Evaluation Schema has received the most consistent empirical support, but this questionnaire does not provide as much of an in-depth, detailed insight into social climate as that provided by other social climate questionnaires. Although more extensive measures of climate exist, they have not yet received sufficient validation to justify their routine use in practice. Nevertheless, there is growing evidence that some questionnaire-based measures can provide a reliable and valid assessment of the social climate in secure settings, which has important clinical and theoretical implications.

Keywords: forensic psychiatric hospital; prison; social climate; validation; ward atmosphere.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Hospitals, Psychiatric*
  • Humans
  • Prisons*
  • Social Environment*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*