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The Role of the Governing Governor

Dr Ben Crewe and Professor Alison Liebling continue to undertake interviews with prison governors working in England and Wales, and some other jurisdictions, as part of their study of The role of the governor, commissioned by NOMS. The interviews build on research that they began as part of a previous study in 2007-8, and have effectively continued since that period. The findings from the recent study cover two main areas: first, how governors are feeling about changes to their role, including reductions in their discretion, an increased emphasis on contract management, and lower levels of staffing; second, what constitutes ‘good governing’, including the skills, values and orientations that are appropriate to the changing nature of the governing role. Among the key themes emerging from the study are: the complex flows of loyalty between governors and the wider organization; the importance of congruence between organizational values and actions; the perceived relevance of gender and forms of informal patronage in determining career progression; the emotional components of governing, and of supporting governors; the increasing need for relational skills in order to manage contract partners as well as staff sentiments during a time of rapid flux; the difficulties of coping with the increasingly complex demands of the job, including feelings of failure as prison performance becomes harder to maintain; and the value of a form of ‘creative compliance’ in order to ‘get the job done’. The findings are being disseminated, including at the public sector Prison Service governing governors forum, in May 2015, and in a forthcoming article in the Prison Service Journal, titled ‘Governing governors’.

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