Incarceration is a social justice issue: incarcerated individuals are disproportionally persons of color and impacted by poverty. Most of those who are incarcerated were already marginalized prior to incarceration and then face high rates of recidivism post-release. In addition, many are parents so their incarceration also influences risk factors for lowered outcomes for their children. Following incarceration, returning citizens face structural barriers to employment, education, and community and family life.
Given the above, there is a need for high quality data to support the development of innovative, evidence-based interventions from the individual to the policy level in order to reduce levels of incarceration, provide effective services during incarceration, and support smart decarceration. However, unique challenges in conducting research in correctional institutions has led to a paucity of such data. This roundtable will add to the knowledge base in studying those who are incarcerated.
The discussants will provide and also elicit examples of research challenges in these settings, such as: • extensive application and approval procedures for researchers to conduct studies in prisons; • facilities may be or go on “lockdown,” meaning that researchers can be locked out or locked in the facility; • study participants may be unavailable to researchers, as they can be placed in segregation or medical units, making court appearances, or moved to other facilities; • typically there is limited time availability for entry into facilities; • lack of confidential interviewing space in facilities; • shifting priorities of institutions that may conflict with research or practice goals; • stringent rules as to what researchers may bring into prisons, such as whether recorders or computers will be allowed, or even what types of pens may be used; and • inflexible rules about providing incentives for participants as typically they may not be provided directly but must be given to prison authorities for safekeeping.
The roundtable discussants include two researchers who have conducted studies in an adult correctional facility and with individuals with involuntary forensic patients in a psychiatric hospital, and a researcher who has conducted research in multiple juvenile justice programs and with state-level juvenile court systems. In addition, the former director of a re-entry program at a large city jail will discuss research issues and strategies from the “inside.”
A main focus of the roundtable is to facilitate a dialogue about strategies for overcoming these challenges, giving the facilitators and participants opportunities to share what works—and what doesn't—in conducting research in this important area