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Interviewing Offenders in a Penitentiary Environment and the Use of Mental Maps During Interviews (From Offenders on Offending: Learning About Crime From Criminals, P 273-289, 2010, Wim Bernasco, ed. - See NCJ-232627)

NCJ Number
Date Published
17 pages

This chapter discusses the dynamics of conducting interviews in a prison environment, with attention to the conditions of the research, how to motivate offenders to participate in the research, validation of data, and the use of "mental maps" as a research method.


When deciding to conduct research in a prison environment, the researcher must be aware of the conditions under which the research will be conducted. The related issues discussed in the chapter are the safety of the researcher; the prison's time regime; legal limitations relevant to the research (in the current study, the relevant laws of the Czech Republic); and researcher-offender interaction. The chapter's discussion of issues related to motivating offenders to participate in the research mentions the following motivational factors: a break from the prison routine, the opportunity to talk with someone new, and playing the role of an expert in the interview. A recruitment issue that receives special attention in the chapter is the role and involvement of the prison psychologist, who typically selects the pool of inmates who meet the criteria for the study. The researchers meet with the pool, explain the research and then let offenders choose whether or not they will participate. Issues discussed in the validation of information given by the offenders pertain to the variability of the sample, the validity of the choice of the offender pool selected by the prison psychologist, and the research design. The chapter concludes with a section on mental maps as a means to access new information. Mental maps represent how offenders understand and relate to their environment, thus making spatial decisions based upon the information they store. Information in the map is also used to solve problems, form opinions and attitudes, and direct actions. 55 references

Date Published: January 1, 2010