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International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy Queensland University of Technology 2202-8005 The International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy is an open access, blind peer-reviewed journal that publishes critical research about challenges confronting criminal justice systems around the world.  The Journal is committed to democratising quality knowledge production and dissemination. Authors retain copyright and articles are licenced via Creative Commons to make published articles more readily available and useable. There are no APCs (Article Processing Charges). Authors can submit and publish at no cost.
International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy 4 1

The Craft of Doing Qualitative Research in Prisons


In this article we examine the characteristics, challenges and added value of qualitative prison research in a Belgian context. As the many dynamics and challenges of qualitative research are often underreported in academic publications, we pay particular attention to the research processes and the pains and gains of qualitative prison research. Firstly, drawing on experiences from several prison studies, we describe the different steps of gaining access to the field as a constant process of negotiation. Secondly, we discuss some of the dilemmas of prison research based on two ethnographic studies of prison staff. We end with discussion of the value added by a qualitative research approach to facilitate understanding of what is at stake in prisons and how this fits with a critical research position.

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Except where otherwise noted, content in this journal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Pages:66 to 78
Section: Articles
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Author Biographies

Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Belgium Belgium

Department of Criminology

Research group Crime & Society (CRiS)

Research line Penality & Society

Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Belgium Belgium

Department of Criminology

Research and Teaching Assistant

Sonja Snacken is Professor of Criminology, Penology and Sociology of Law at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium), where she now holds a five year 'Research Fellowship' (2006-2011).Her research focuses on sentencing and the implementation of custodial and non-custodial sentences in Belgium and Europe.She participates in several international scientific networks, both English- and French-speaking, is a member of the Editorial Board of high standing international journals (Punishment and Society, Déviance et Société), was elected president of the European Society of Criminology (2004-2005), acts as an expert for the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (since 1994) and is a member (since 2001) and President (since 2006) of the Council for Penological Cooperation of the Council of Europe.At national level, she was a member of the drafting committee for the first Prison Act in Belgium (2005) and president of the drafting committee for the Act on the External Legal Position of Prisoners (2006).