Space, Time, and Reflexive Interviewing: Implications for Qualitative Research with Active, Incarcerated, and Former Criminal Offenders

  • Steven Downing Faculty of Social Science and Humanities University of Ontario Institute of Technology Oshawa, Ontario, Canada
  • Katherine Polzer Department of Criminal Justice Texas Christian University Fort Worth, Texas, United States
  • Kristine Levan Department of Criminal Justice Plymouth State University Plymouth, New Hampshire, United States

Abstract

Space and time are concepts familiar to physicists, philosophers, and social scientists; they are operationalized with varying degrees of specificity but are both heralded as important to contextualizing research and understanding individual, cultural, and historical differences in perception and the social construction of reality. Space can range from, at the macro level, geographic region, to at the micro level, the immediate physical surroundings of an individual or group of persons. Similarly, a conceptualization of time can range from era or epoch to the passing of seconds and minutes within a situational dynamic of human interaction. In this article we examine the microcosmic end of the space-time spectrum, specifically as it relates to doing qualitative interviews with current or former criminal offenders. Through a comparative discussion of interviews with incarcerated, recently released, and active offenders, we pose questions and offer insights regarding how interviewers and interviewees perceive physical space and the passage of time and, most importantly, how these perceptions relate to the interview process and resulting data. Notably, we suggest that interviewer reflexivity should take into account not only the relationship, dialogue, and discourse between interviewer and interviewee but also space and time as perceived and constructed by both parties. Finally, we offer several key strategies for incorporating these considerations into the interviewer toolkit.

Author Biographies

Steven Downing, Faculty of Social Science and Humanities University of Ontario Institute of Technology Oshawa, Ontario, Canada
Steven Downing is an assistant professor of social science and humanities at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. His research interests include the role of justice in situational and background dynamics of street offending, the relationship between ethic(s) of care and offending decisions, and the subcultural nature of crime and deviance in street and other contexts.
Katherine Polzer, Department of Criminal Justice Texas Christian University Fort Worth, Texas, United States
Katherine Polzer is an assistant professor of criminal justice at Texas Christian University. Her research interests include capital punishment, prisoner re-entry, and community corrections, specifically problem-solving courts and probation.
Kristine Levan, Department of Criminal Justice Plymouth State University Plymouth, New Hampshire, United States
Kristine Levan is an assistant professor of criminal justice at Plymouth State University. Her research interests include violence among incarcerated populations, theoretical underpinnings of prison violence, and media representations of violent crime.
Published
2013-09-30
Section
Articles