Interviewing and validity issues in self-report research with incarcerated offenders: the Quebec inmate survey
Self-report research on incarcerated offenders has had its share of support and criticism. The present chapter provides evidence from a survey of over 250 offenders that were incarcerated in federal penitentiaries in Quebec between 2000 and 2001. The principal aim of the survey was to gather data on offenders’ criminal earnings during a three-year window period. The focus for this chapter will be on various aspects surrounding the self-report survey. First, site selection and access is discussed, with a particular focus on variations across minimum, medium and maximum security level penitentiaries. Second, the logistics of respondent solicitation are addressed, with a special outlook placed on the more personal techniques for persuading inmates to take part in a survey. Third, the questionnaire and sample designs are outlined. Fourth, key variables, such as the criminal earnings measures, are described. These variables are subsequently validated for their overall form, their internal consistency and their correlation with respondents’ self-perceptions and expectations. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the limits surrounding the inmate survey and an overall appraisal of its contribution to criminological research.