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Intimacy with Outlaws: The Role of Relational Distance in Recruiting, Paying, and Interviewing Underworld Research Participants

NCJ Number
Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency Volume: 45 Issue: 1 Dated: February 2008 Pages: 22-38
Scott Jacques; Richard Wright
Date Published
February 2008
17 pages
Using the sociological concept of relational distance, the degree of intimacy between actors, this study attempted to explain the variation in subject recruitment, resource expenditure, and the quantity and validity of interview data.
The propositions outlined suggest a preliminary theory of how research with active criminals occurs: The more a criminological researcher has interacted with a criminal and his or her associates, the more likely a criminal is to be recruited for an interview, the less it will cost to do the interview, and the more valid and plentiful will be the data obtained. This proposed theory constitutes a beginning point for the development of a practical framework within which to plan and interpret research involving active criminals. The past quarter century has seen the emergence of a substantial literature devoted to the mechanics of recruiting, paying, and interviewing currently active offenders. However, absent from the literature is a theoretical framework within which to understand, test, modify, and further develop efforts to locate such offenders and gain their cooperation. Based on the authors’ research with active drug sellers in Atlanta, GA and St. Louis, MO, this paper explores the ways in which relational distance (the nature and degree of intimacy between recruiter, interviewee, and researcher) affects the behavior of active offender research. Notes, references