Convict Criminology

VII. Important Contributions

Convict criminology continues to grow as numerous articles and books are added to the literature and the perspective is discussed in textbooks. The CC group emphasizes the use of direct observation and real-life experience in understanding the different processes, procedures, and institutional settings that comprise the criminal justice system. The methodology includes correspondence with prisoners, face-to-face interviews, retrospective interpretation of past experiences, and direct observation inside correctional facilities. The group is especially skilled in gaining entry to prisons, writing research questions, composing interview questionnaires in language that convicts can understand, and in analyzing prison records and statistics.

Much of the academic literature to date has discussed “the prison” abstractly, with little detail or differentiation between security levels, state or federal systems, or location within the country. When details were provided—for example, on prison conditions or social groups within the prison—the sources were often outdated. In addition to failing to identify the facility, state, or system, other articles have been written without interviewing the prisoners.

The CC perspective has contributed to the updating of studies on corrections and community corrections by remedying these deficiencies. CC scholars name the research sites so that the conditions they observe, and the concerns they raise, can be addressed. Although they are trained as scientists, they do not forget their duty to report what they find and help translate it into policy recommendations. With nearly 7 million Americans currently in the custody of correctional supervision, this is a critically important function.