The Ethics of Focus Groups in Correctional Settings

By Emma Dresler-Hawke and Franco Vaccarino.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Research has been conducted in prisons throughout the world for many decades. A popu-lar research method which is being employed more frequently is the use of focus groups. Often however, the ethics in focus group research tends to be presented as if the grouped participants were similar to individuals taking place in a one-to-one interview. The ethical principles of confidentiality, informed consent, and to do no harm are common considerations to social science research, but can be compromised by the focus group methodology, and this is of particular concern in the prison setting. Furthermore, creating a “non-threatening environment” within the focus group meeting does not necessarily translate to providing ethical assurances outside of the meeting. The aim of this paper is to provide a brief overview of literature on focus group interviews and, from research conducted in prisons, provide a snapshot of some of the key issues and limitations to be considered when using the focus group technique in a prison setting.

Keywords: Ethics, Focus Groups, Prison, Correctional Setting

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 16, Issue 12, pp.171-184. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.230MB).

Dr. Emma Dresler-Hawke

Lecturer, Department of Communication, Journalism and Marketing, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

Dr. Franco Vaccarino

Senior Lecturer, Department of Communication, Journalism and Marketing, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand


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