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Validity of Criminal Justice Contacts Reported by Inmates: A Comparison of Self-Reported Data With Official Prison Records

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 38 Issue: 5 Dated: September/October 2010 Pages: 1031-1037
Jennifer Roberts; William Wells
Date Published
September 2010
7 pages
The study described in this article assessed the validity of self-reported contacts with the criminal justice system gathered using a life event calendar with a sample of incarcerated men.
Existing research on criminal justice contact data has not adequately examined the quality of self-reported timing data, has produced discrepant findings on validity as it relates to demographics, and is limited in its assessment of data quality using a life event calendar method. Self-reports of criminal justice contacts (i.e., arrests, jail terms, prison terms) were obtained from over 700 incarcerated men using a structured life-event calendar method. Similarly, data were collected from the inmate's official records for the same events. These reports served as an external criterion for the self-reports. Results indicated a significant degree of reporting errors for arrests using the life event calendar approach with better reporting for jail and prison terms. Additionally, individuals with the highest number of previous arrests had the greatest recall difficulties. Recall of arrest presents a difficult recall task. The life event calendar method should either be modified to improve recall of specific events for criminological samples or used instead to capture information on more general and extended events. Tables, notes, and references (Published Abstract)