In Support of Qualitative Methodology in Criminal Justice

Stephen Perrello

This essay argues a preference for qualitative methodology, in order to empower individual subjects of criminal justice investigation, and to better implement fundamental change in criminal justice institutions. Philosophical and religious issues regarding punishment are not just at the heart of criminology. These issues are also at the heart of methodological choices. A search for law-like relations between causative agents in human affairs, by quantitative measurement of a limited number of specified variables, may fail to challenge those political institutions whose primary function is the preservation of order through external, institutional controls, rather than through the empowerment of individuals. The essay concludes that the complexity, philosophical and religious content, inherent contradictions in, and intractable nature of criminal justice institutions suggest the need for greater reliance on qualitative methods for criminal justice research.

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Updated 05/20/2006