U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Research Note: How Accurate Are Arrestees' Self-Reports of Their Criminal Justice Histories?

NCJ Number
Justice Research and Policy Volume: 7 Issue: 1 Dated: 2005 Pages: 81-101
Date Published
21 pages

This study analyzed the accuracy of arrestees’ self-reports of previous criminal justice system contact in New York City.


Findings of the study suggest that while arrestee self-report data might lack some degree of precision and accuracy, the data continues to be of value for criminological research. The authors concluded that the inaccuracies between self-report and criminal history data might be at least partially explained by the limitations of official records. Specifically, results indicated that the accuracy of self-report data compared to official data varied by specific measures and that the overreporting was just as common as the underreporting of previous criminal justice contacts. The most consistent agreement between the two types of data concerned information about arrest during the previous 6-month period. Data were drawn from the Policing Project, a National Institute of Justice-funded study that interviewed 892 New York City arrestees during the second half of 1999 regarding their previous criminal justice contacts. Official criminal histories on the arrestees were gathered from the State agency for comparison purposes. Implications for criminal justice practitioners and researchers are identified and include the need to evaluate the integrity of official criminal justice records and to probe the explanations for inaccuracies in self-reported data. Footnotes, tables, figures, references

Date Published: January 1, 2005