There were lots of highlights…
Dr Gary Slutkin encouraged us to reconceptualise violence as a contagious disease. He explained similarities in the way that violence and infectious diseases spread. He talked about how understanding violence as a contagious disease may provide a solution to addressing the epidemic. The ‘Cure Violence Method’ and individuals employed as ‘violence interrupters’ has had encouraging results in America. Violence interrupters are trained to interrupt the transmission of violence by deescalating situations. They work to shift the perspectives of those likely to become involved in a violent act. Workers are trusted in their local area and are trained as disease control workers to support them in their role.
A little closer to home, Professor Karen Slade from Nottingham Trent University shared her research into Self Harm in Forensic populations. Professor Slade discussed the concept of dual harm; that is persons displaying both harm to themselves and harm to others. It’s a common phenomenon; between 11 and 16% (Slade, 2019) of people in custody in England and Wales are involved in dual harm. Whilst these figures didn’t necessarily surprise me, Professor Slades other findings did.
She found that this dual harming population were twice as likely to be involved in prison misconduct. They typically spent 40% longer in custody, and 2-3 times longer under restrictive regimes than those who did not evidence dual harm behaviours. For these individuals up to ¼ of their time in custody was spent in restrictive regimes, accounting for a huge percentage of prison resource (Slade, 2019). Professor Slade encouraged us to recognise that violence and self-harm are linked. She noted that a decrease in other-directed violence may result in an increase in self-directed violence, as self-harm becomes the mechanism by which individuals avoid the use of violence. Whilst this research hasn’t extended to a Scottish population, it strikes me as an area worthy of exploration.