Prison-based interviews can provide unique insight into a social world from which most everyone is excluded. Because incarceration policies are socially significant, academic analysts arguably have an obligation to learn as much as possible about how punishment is practiced. One area of such inquiry lies with the increased number of life sentences in the United States. To learn more about this reality, I conducted a series of interviews of lifers in the state of Washington. These interviews necessary traversed emotionally difficult terrain. I use this essay to reflect on the benefits and complications of interviews that cover sensitive issues, particularly in a prison setting where the research subjects suffer from diminished agency.
Emotions Ethics Interviews Life sentences Punishment
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