Our knowledge of crime is based on three types of sources: the criminal justice system, victims, and offenders. For technological and other reasons the criminal justice system produces an increasing stream of information on crime. The rise of the victimization survey has given the victims a much larger role in our study of crime. There is, however, no concomitant development regarding offenders. This is unfortunate because offenders are the experts when it comes to offending.In order to understand criminal behavior, we need their perspective.
This is not always a straightforward process, however, and information from offenders is often unreliable. This book is about what we can do to maximise the validity of what offenders tell us about their offending. Renowned experts from various countries present their experiences and insights, with a clear focus on methodological issues of fieldwork among various types of offender populations. Each contribution deals with with a few central issues:
- How can offenders be motivated to participate in research?
- How can offenders be motivated to tell the truth on their offending?
- How can the information that offenders provide be checked and validated?
- What can we learn from offenders that cannot be accessed from other sources?
- With the aim of obtaining valid and reliable information, how, where and under which conditions should we observe offenders and talk to them?
'...this is an extremely interesting and teeming book, with absorbing methodological details, which, at points, transmits the excitement that offender-based research generates. It is a very much alive text in which the authors, coming from or researching a variety of contexts (including Austria, the Czech Republic and the criminologically `exotic' Sri Lanka), share their extensive knowledge on the topic as well as their own experiences and stories....'
'Offenders on Offending: Learning about Crime from Criminals offers a very comprehensive account of the possibilities, problems and solutions that exist in the context of conducting qualitative research with offenders. It is an important collection full of learning and latent common sense-a work that blows open debates on philosophical and practical aspects of research, and is a must-have to every fervent researcher conducting this kind of research, postgraduate students, as well as social research methods teachers. Readers who are not acquainted with relevant research-related literature will find the references section of every chapter a little treasure. All these groups will find it a compulsively readable work, which constantly pushes for re-assessment of ideas, and which highlights why the bulk of criminological research needs to return `back to basics' and re-embrace the offender as the protagonist in the theatre of `crime' and deviance.'
-Georgios A. Antonopoulos, Teesside University, in The British Journal of Criminology, vol 52 iss 1