Visualising Bristol, Prisoners

Oliver Conner recently shared some of his favourite free technology tools in a recent post and I thought I would take the time and try some. The first one was Tableau Public and it is a visualisation tool apparently which as far as I can tell provides an ‘easy’ way to make graphs and tables out of data.

My first output is a figure of the compensation paid to prisoners in Bristol as claims in civil litigation proceedings by type of claim.

Medical negligence payments of £119k diminish the impact of all other claims which at their highest, £18,540 for unlawful detention, are £100k less. The cause for this outlier is £112k paid out in 2006-07 which may make an interesting story but at the moment it hides everything else. Medical negligence gets removed for the rest of the examination.

I find graphics a useful way of presenting information that is immediately understandable rather than using data tables which need some translation to gain some meaning. The amount of money paid out by year is presented on its own to note trends over time.

The sum paid out almost triples between 04-05 and 05-06 and then continually decreases in the following years. So where has the change come from?

Sheet 1

Powered by Tableau

(Source: Guardian Data Store )

In 2004-05, £4,545 was paid out for Injuries – slips & trips and falls, and property (damaged or lost). In 2005-06, £10,920 was paid out for injury due to assault by other prisoners and £2,600 for unlawful detention.

The downward trend in the last three years is split over large payments for Injury (assault by prisoners) in 2005-06 and unlawful detention in the 2006-07 and 2007-08.

Four years don’t show much of a trend because of the differences between the first and last two years. The next stage is to obtain data that isn’t available from the Guardian. The Bristol Evening Post has an article on compensation from Bristol prisons for the years 2007 to 2009 based on Freedom On Information requests. There is more useful information, namely the names of the prisons. “The figures were provided by the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) for Horfield Prison and Eastwood Park – a prison for female inmates in Falfield. NOMS does not hold information for Ashfield Young Offenders Institute in Pucklechurch, which is run by a private company.”

I extrapolated the 2008-09 figures by deleting the sums of 2007-08 from the two years from the Evening Post data.

The table shows that injury payments were made in the first two years but nothing in the following, medical negligence payments appeared for the two years after that but nothing for 2008-09. The most consistent payment for four out of the five years is for unlawful detention. £12,600 was paid out between 2007-09 by Eastwood Park.

A report on this prison was presented after an announced visit in 2000 stating that it had many functions to perform, such as: drug rehabilitation, house foreign nationals, child protection and various training programs. However the report claimed that “it lacks the capacity to carry out any of these tasks completely”. By 2008, however, a further report stated that the prison “in spite of the considerable challenges, is performing reasonably well in all areas, and is carrying out some innovative and supportive work”.

I could look for further information on the unlawful detention at Eastwood Park but I think that this was enough to show what you can get from some data. The Tableau Public program was interesting to use but I would often have to press the back button to change things when I couldn’t figure out how to fix them. The biggest issue was converting the data from the Guardian into list form so I could import it. A lot of the functionality is already present in Excel pivot tables. A benefit to the free software is the ability to export it to the web and discuss it as part of the community. I used one embedded chart from the site and the rest were easier to use as screenshots.

Nevertheless there is something pleasing about the ability to use software with data and it was fun to try it out. The functionality did not feel as intuitive as I expected and I have a fair amount of experience with statistical software.

I would love to know about anyone else’s experience with the visualisation tool.

One response to “Visualising Bristol, Prisoners”

  1. Brilliant bit of analysis. I really want to delve into the location based maps feature.

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