Challenges to Utilising Peers
Although most participants were keen to utilise peers for access to health information and support as well as auxiliary healthcare services, many young men noted that there were a number of challenges associated with seeking help from peers. These challenges included the perceived motivations of the peers, role-modelling and behaviour change in the prison context, and the social environment at the YOI.
Most participants stated that they would speak to a health champion about certain health issues, but they would really like to take on the role themselves. As stated earlier, participants reflected that high status roles were highly sought after but they were also sometimes divisive in creating strong competition between the young adults for the limited positions. Young adults were motivated to take on the peer role for a combination of reasons including for both personal gains (e.g. personal development, to gain status in the prison) and for the benefit of the prison community (e.g. to provide support and perform a civic duty). However, they were largely sceptical to the motivations of other individuals who held prison roles. One participant stated:
I wouldn’t talk to a health champion as all these things just look good for parole—like being a Listener. You get privileges and you get perks and people don’t do them for the right reasons.
Participants also reflected that prison roles were often allocated to those who ‘got in with the govs [prison staff]’ rather than through a fair selection processes. This reduced the credibility of the role because participants questioned why they should seek help and support from someone whose motivations may be purely self-serving.