Offenders on Offending
Learning about Crime from Criminals
Edited by Wim Bernasco
Foreword by Michael Tonry
Willan – 2010 – 344 pages
Our knowledge of crime is based on three types of sources: the criminal justice system, victims, and offenders. For technological and other reasons the criminal justice system produces an increasing stream of information on crime. The rise of the victimization survey has given the victims a much larger role in our study of crime. There is, however, no concomitant development regarding offenders. This is unfortunate because offenders are the experts when it comes to offending.In order to understand criminal behavior, we need their perspective.
This is not always a straightforward process, however, and information from offenders is often unreliable. This book is about what we can do to maximise the validity of what offenders tell us about their offending. Renowned experts from various countries present their experiences and insights, with a clear focus on methodological issues of fieldwork among various types of offender populations. Each contribution deals with with a few central issues:
'…this is an extremely interesting and teeming book, with absorbing methodological details, which, at points, transmits the excitement that offender-based research generates. It is a very much alive text in which the authors, coming from or researching a variety of contexts (including Austria, the Czech Republic and the criminologically ‘exotic’ Sri Lanka), share their extensive knowledge on the topic as well as their own experiences and stories….'
'Offenders on Offending: Learning about Crime from Criminals offers a very comprehensive account of the possibilities, problems and solutions that exist in the context of conducting qualitative research with offenders. It is an important collection full of learning and latent common sense—a work that blows open debates on philosophical and practical aspects of research, and is a must-have to every fervent researcher conducting this kind of research, postgraduate students, as well as social research methods teachers. Readers who are not acquainted with relevant research-related literature will find the references section of every chapter a little treasure. All these groups will find it a compulsively readable work, which constantly pushes for re-assessment of ideas, and which highlights why the bulk of criminological research needs to return ‘back to basics’ and re-embrace the offender as the protagonist in the theatre of ‘crime’ and deviance.'
-Georgios A. Antonopoulos, Teesside University, in The British Journal of Criminology, vol 52 iss 1
Foreword, Michael Tonry Preface, Wim Bernasco Part 1: Setting the Stage 1. Learning about crime from criminals: editor's introduction, Wim Bernasco 2. Misinformation, misunderstanding and misleading as validity threats to offenders' accounts of offending, Henk Elffers 3. Apprehending criminals: the impact of law on offender-based research, Scott Jacques and Richard Wright Part 2: Prison Settings 4. Interviewing the incarcerated: pitfalls and promises, Heith Copes and Andy Hochstetler 5. Interviewing and validity issues in self-report research with incarcerated offenders: the Quebec inmate survey, Carlo Morselli and Pierre Tremblay 6. Beyond the interview: complementing and validating accounts of incarcerated violent offenders, Fiona Brookman Part 3: Field Settings 7. Method, actor and context triangulations: knowing what happened during criminal events and the motivations for getting involved, Marie Rosenkrantz Lindegaard 8. Repeat, triangulate and reflect: ethnographic validity in a study on urban minority youth, Frank van Gemert 9. Getting good data from people that do bad things: effective methods and techniques for conducting research with hard-to-reach and hidden populations, Ric Curtis Part 4: Social Categories of Offenders and Researchers 10. The impact of gender when interviewing 'offenders on offending', Jody Miller 11. Talking to snakeheads: methodological considerations for research on Chinese human smuggling, Sheldon Zhang 12. Blue-collar, white-collar: crimesandmistakes, Neal Shover and Ben W. Hunter Part 5: Learning About the Actn 13. Research on residential burglary: ways of improving validity and participants' recall when gathering data, Claire Nee 14. The use of maps in offender interviewing, Lucia Summers, Shane D. Johnson and George F. Rengert 15. Interviewing offenders in a penitentiary environment and the use of mental maps during interviews, Veronika A. Polišenská 16. Validating offenders' accounts: learning from offender interviews with bank robbers in Austrian prisons, Birgit Zetinigg and Matthias Gaderer
Wim Bernesco is a Senior Researcher within the NSCR Mobility and Distribution of Crime group. His current research interests include spatial aspects of criminal activities, including variations in crime and delinquency between neighbourhoods, offender travel behaviour and target selection, and crime displacement.
Michael Tonry is Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota. He specializes in criminal law.