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Survey Research with Gang and Non-gang Members in Prison: Operational Lessons from the LoneStar Project

NCJ Number
Trends in Organized Crime Volume: 25 Issue: 4 Dated: 2022 Pages: 378-406
Date Published
29 pages

This article describes lessons from the LoneStar Project, which involved interview-based surveys with prison inmates, both gang members and non-gang members, in Texas.


This article introduces the Study of Trajectories, Associations, and Reentry—the LoneStar Project—which involved interview-based surveys with 802 prison inmates in Texas, over 45% of whom were officially classified as gang members. Study results revealed that gang members would not only participate in research, but that the methodological characteristics of their survey responses were indistinguishable statistically and substantively from those of non-gang prison inmates. The study also determined that strong researcher-practitioner relationships, a nimble yet consistent research team, and a heavy emphasis on rapport building allowed this project to be carried out with few disruptions in a prison environment. These results are promising for future research in prisons, especially with gang members. Prisons have been described as the final frontier for research on gangs and gang members. Criminological research in prisons is rare due to restricted access to facilities, concerns about harsh public scrutiny, and worries about security. There are added challenges for survey research involving prison gang members, as it is believed that gang norms inhibit reliable and valid responses and discourage participation in research. The authors assess the prospect for conducting interview-based survey research with gang members in prison. The authors also detail the planning and implementation phases of this study, assess whether gang members can be surveyed in prisons with fidelity, report descriptive statistics on gang and non-gang members, and identify five key operational lessons from this study. (Published Abstract Provided)

Date Published: January 1, 2022