Issues in a 30 Year Follow-Up Critical Ethnography of Serious Thieves

W. Gordon West, Imaging Transformation International

This paper will discuss key theoretical and methodological issues in a thirty year follow-up study using critical ethnography to track events in the lives of some 40 serious thieves. The subjects were initially engaged through social agency contacts during the 1960's and 1970's, using snowball sampling within a grounded theory/analytic induction approach, and were involved centrally in a variety of serious (although "non-professional") theft. Analysis from the initial research indicated that most would shortly "retire" from this short-term career: most "going straight", but a few getting involved in service-industry crime (such as drug dealing or bootlegging), and those who persisted being incarcerated for increasingly lengthy sentences. The paper will focus on initial issues in doing the follow-up research.

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Updated 05/20/2006