Interviewing the incarcerated: pitfalls and promises
Narratives obtained in interviews of offenders provide rich details about the motivations and causes of crime, the nature of criminal calculus and the situational dynamics of the criminal event. There is little question, therefore, that offender accounts have provided criminologists with invaluable insights. Concern does exist, however, about how best to locate and recruit participants to produce the most valid sources of data. One concern focuses on the relative strengths and benefits of recruiting and interviewing incarcerated versus active offenders. In this chapter, we discuss the potential limitations and strengths of prison-based interviews. We begin by examining the criticisms of interviewing in prisons and offer rebuttals to these. We then discuss the various advantages of recruiting and interviewing inmates. The ever-present issue of whether accounts elicited from incarcerated offenders and active offenders vary in significant ways is addressed throughout and reviewed in the conclusion.