Prison officer training: Transient identity during immersive ethnography

Helen Arnold, Rosemary Ricciardelli

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Full participant observation studies in prison research are rare and privileged and bring with them ethical considerations. In the current article, we reflect on the ethical issues and dilemmas within two independent, but strikingly similar, research studies that took place almost 20 years apart: one in the United Kingdom in 2002 and one in Canada in 2019. In both studies, the researchers completed the initial training programme for new correctional/prison officer recruits. We discuss here the tenets and nuances of participant observation, reflecting on the applicability of traditional ethical concerns such as consent, disclosure, and deception as well as the professional and intrapersonal demands and implications of immersive ethnography on the researcher identity and how we managed our role. The key methodological lesson we both learnt was that immersion does not mean jeopardy of objectivity and research integrity, but immersion can place not insignificant personal and professional demands on those undertaking such involved ethnographic work.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEthical Dilemmas in International Criminological Research
EditorsMichael Adorjan, Rosemary Ricciardelli
ISBN (Electronic)9781003241515
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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