n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Getting to them and through them: Practical challenges of conducting research with incarcerated offenders

Volume 2014, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



Although South Africa's legal system does not include any specific directives dealing with imprisoned research participants, the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) has implemented rigorous procedures aimed at ensuring inmate protection. Augmenting this institutionalised bulwark is the tacit requirement that researchers operating in this domain need to exercise added caution and philanthropy beyond that normally afforded to research with human subjects. Guidance for researchers is further provided by section 35 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (Act 108 of 1996), which deals with the rights of incarcerated offenders, and can be used as a blueprint during research. This article reflects on the inexorable methodological trials and tribulations faced when conducting research in South African correctional centres. The discourse is presented as an essay rather than an encyclopaedic description of the topic. It aims not only to reveal contemporary realities and sensitise aspirant researchers about what to expect in is this environment, but also to, by evocation, provide intellectual nourishment to the academic community so as to facilitate research with such vulnerable groups.

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