"Really" Participant Observation

Daniel S. Murphy, Appalachian State University

Over the decades a wealth of research has been conducted analyzing the "prison condition." While this body of research is relevant and very useful, it has been conducted from an outside-in perspective. To gain further insight into the reality of prison, analysis from the perspective of inside-out may further clarify the complex existence, and consequences, of the prison experience. Having spent in excess of five years confined within the Federal Bureau of Prisons, I have been afforded the unique opportunity to implement my pre-prison sociological training, conducting research as a member of the "prison society." Since release, I have continued my focused prison research. It is clear that the trusting bond, predicated upon the common prison experience between researcher and respondent, enhances the internal validity of the data generated. In this paper, I argue that the inside-out research approach of Convict Criminology adds additional perspective to the extant body of literature in gaining an understanding of the "prison condition."

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Updated 05/20/2006