Pilot Examination of a Self-Report Measure of Institutional Social Climate

Key Words

social climate, Institutional Environment Questionnaire, offender 

What it means

A self-report measure of social climate completed by offenders called the Institutional Environment Questionnaire could, with minimal changes, be used by CSC to measure offenders’ perceptions of social climate.  Doing so would allow an additional perspective and contextual information to be considered in combination with administrative data in order to fully understand the social climates in which offenders’ reside.

Measurement of social climate could allow for the identification of targets for change.  Institutional social climate has been found to exert an influence on offenders’ behaviour during incarceration and possibly after release. As such, more comprehensive measurement of climate may allow for the identification of possible modifications that could encourage and support offenders’ pro-social behaviour.

What we found

Based on results from a small-scale pilot study, it appeared that the pattern of responses to the Institutional Environment Questionnaire was generally appropriate suggesting that participants understood most of the questions and were comfortable answering almost all of them.  Where non-responses occurred, we proposed possible solutions.

Associations among questionnaire items and between questionnaire items and administrative data showed that participants’ responses generally aligned with official records reflecting institutional function, but that questionnaire data may be uniquely able to provide context for administrative data findings.

Overall, the Institutional Environment Questionnaire elicits meaningful responses lending themselves to analysis and providing a complementary data source to administrative data. 

Why we did this study

Evidence that social climate is associated with behaviour has prompted interest from correctional officials in better understanding institutional social climate.  Traditionally, however, institutional social climate has been measured using administrative data sources.  Some authors have found that using administrative data alone is insufficient.  It has been argued that to fully understand social climate and its impacts, the perceptions of individuals who experience the environment is also necessary. The Research Branch undertook this pilot study to examine the viability of measuring institutional climate, as well as to examine the utility and applicability of one specific measure.

What we did

A 153-item self-report measure of social climate, the Institutional Environment Questionnaire, was completed by 52 male offenders in three medium security institutions.  In order to examine the practicality and utility of using this questionnaire to assess social climate, data from the questionnaires were analyzed together with administrative data.

For more information

Scott, T.-L. & Gobeil, R. (2015).  Pilot examination of a self-report measure of institutional social climate (Research Report B-57). Ottawa, ON: Correctional Service of Canada.

To obtain a PDF version of the full report, or for other inquiries, please e-mail research@csc-scc.gc.ca or contact us by phone at (613) 995-3975.

You can also visit the Research Publications section for a full list of reports and one-page summaries.