Beyond the interview: complementing and validating accounts of incarcerated violent offenders
Speaking to offenders in detail about their offending and related issues is a complex yet increasingly routine feature of criminological research. There is little doubt that the rich narratives often gathered are invaluable to the criminological endeavour. However, it is not always clear how to elicit detailed and ‘credible’ information from offenders or when and how to supplement accounts either to corroborate certain ‘facts’ or to enrich the data already gleaned. Drawing upon examples from my own research with murderers and street robbers, as well as the experiences of other researchers, this chapter represents an attempt to appraise the process of planning, undertaking and making sense of qualitative interviews with violent offenders in a prison context. I will suggest that in interpreting interview data researchers need to be mindful of the distinction between ‘fact-seeking’ and ‘meaning-seeking’.