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Validity of Arrestees' Self-Reports: Variations Across Questions and Persons

NCJ Number
Justice Quarterly Volume: 19 Issue: 3 Dated: September 2002 Pages: 101-126
Andrew Golub; Bruce D. Johnson; Angela Taylor; Hilary J. Liberty
Date Published
September 2002
26 pages

The Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring New York City Policing Study obtained self-report data from arrestees for the purposes of examining crime-generation processes and assessing the impact of policing initiatives; this article used data from the Policing Study to explore the validity of self-report information, after first highlighting some of the key themes and issues in the history of self-report crime data.


This study used a sample of 892 arrestees from the Policing Study. Immediately after interviews with the subjects, the interviewers rated whether or not the "respondents generally told the truth" and whether "the respondents would disclose their criminal history." Ratings were recorded on a 5-point scale. The study analyzed how disclosure varied with interviewers' assessments of the respondents' truthfulness, prior disclosure (whether persons who accurately disclosed one time were more likely to disclose others), and individual characteristics. This was done to determine whether some groups of subjects were more likely to provide truthful disclosers than others. Logistic regression was used to identify any systematic variation between disclosers and nondisclosers for each question. Accurate disclosure was found to be highest for any prior offenses, incarceration, and recent marijuana use; and accurate disclosure was modest for cocaine/crack and heroin use and prior drug offenses; truthful disclosure was "low" for index priors and "very low" for prior violent offenses. Accurate disclosure was higher for those who were currently facing these charges. Disclosure of a prior record proved to be a useful criterion for identifying which self-reports to trust. Interviewers' impressions and urine tests were unrelated to the disclosure of recent drug use or official histories. Accurate disclosure of arrest was higher for male subjects and for arrestees with more prior offenses. 4 tables and 37 references