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Apprehending Criminals: The Impact of Law on Offender-Based Research (From Offenders on Offending: Learning About Crime From Criminals, P 23-45, 2010, Wim Bernasco, ed. - See NCJ-232627)

NCJ Number
Date Published
23 pages

The authors extend their recently introduced preliminary theory of research (Jacques and Wright, 2008c) by examining how law and normative status influence offender-based research.


They review the current state of conceptualizing and theorizing on offender-based research, define the concepts of law and normative status, hypothesize the impact of these variables on offender-based research, and offer practical advice on the ways in which criminologists might maximize the data collected while minimizing the costs of recruiting and paying offender research subjects. The authors' preliminary theory of research is based in the perspective of pure sociology. The goal of pure sociology is to understand how the quality (type) and quantity (amount) of social behavior is affected by social structure. "Social structure" is defined as "the relative social status of and also social distance between every actor in a particular situation." Actors, i.e., individuals or groups, vary in social status, i.e., their position in a social hierarchy. Actors also vary in social distance. "Social distance" pertains to prior interaction between and among actors, common memberships, and similarities in their ideas and forms of expression. "Normative status," or what is called "respectability," is a record of an actor's subjection to social control. A number of factors determine the variable amounts of law applied across situations, persons, and groups; this variability in the application of law has consequences for subsequent behavior. The authors argue that as more law is applied to actors, their normative status declines, and the probability that they are targeted for offender-based research increases while the amount of remuneration provided to them for research participation decreases, along with the quality of data obtained. 55 references

Date Published: January 1, 2010