This paper examines various aspects of the experience of being a female researcher who is studying imprisoned sex offenders, based on the author's work within a male sex-offender prison in England.
Once the author was given permission to undertake the research project, she met with the female director of resettlements, who acted as the researcher's supervisor while in the prison. The initial meeting focused on prison layout and the areas that would be suitable for conducting interviews with inmates. Given that the prison was understaffed, the researcher was given a set of keys to be used in entering various prison areas assigned for the research, unaccompanied by a prison guard. Having been issued a set of keys, the researcher was required to undergo security training, which made clear that there was an inherent vulnerability in being female within the prison setting. The issue of having a set of keys and the various feelings and issues it raised for the researcher is the focus of this paper. The keys meant that the researcher had, in effect, become an independent and largely autonomous mover and actor within the prison. The disadvantage to having a set of keys, which ultimately led to the researcher's decision that it was a bad idea, was that she, inmates, and prison staff viewed her as both vulnerable to possible harm and manipulation by the inmates, such that her research might be considered tainted. For future practice, she decided that if the prison wanted her to do the research, then the staff must be responsible for ensuring her safety by escorting her while she performs her research. 14 notes and 22 references