The law discriminates against low status offenders, but so too might criminologists during the course of their research. In this paper, we address the following question: Does the social status of lawbreakers have an effect on their likelihood of being recruited to ...
Note: This is the postprint of the following paper; publisher version available here.
Jacques, Scott, and Richard Wright. 2010. Criminology as Social Control: Discriminatory Research and Its Role in the Reproduction of Social Inequalities. Crime, Law, & Social Change 53:383-396.
Abstract: The law discriminates against low status offenders, but so too might criminologists during the course of their research. In this paper, we address the following question: Does the social status of lawbreakers have an effect on their likelihood of being recruited to offender-based research? The answer to this question is important for reasons that extend beyond academic criminology. If criminologists discriminate, then they themselves are active agents in the reproduction of social disadvantage. If criminology is to reduce inequality, the field must first identify and reduce discriminatory behavior within its own research community.
The law discriminates, meaning it responds differentially to deviance depending on the social status of offenders (Black, 1976, 1989, 1998). Criminologists regularly study discrimination by the law and denounce it publicly. But what if they too are practicing discrimination? What if criminologists behave differently toward offenders depending on their social status? There is at least one group of criminologists that appears to do so, namely offender-based researchers who obtain information about crime through observations of or communication with active or former criminals (Jacques and Wright, 2010; see, e.g., Curtis, 2003; Jacobs, 1999; Topalli, 2005; St. Jean, 2007; Wright and Decker, 1994, 1997).
This paper addresses an important yet largely unexplored topic that has theoretical, methodological, and ethical implications: Does the social status of offenders have an effect on recruitment to offender-based research? In other words, does variability in the wealth, community involvement, organization, culture, and respectability of criminals affect the process of recruiting them for criminological research?
Recently, Jacques and Wright (2008a, 2010) have begun to develop a theory of method that is nested in the orienting paradigm of pure sociology (Black, 1976, 1995, 1998). This paper seeks to extend their preliminary theory by addressing how all forms of social status affect recruitment to offender-based research, defined as the process of interacting with criminals and convincing them to provide data (Jacques and Wright, 2008a, 2010).
The theory proposed herein is valuable not only because it explains how research in criminology behaves, but also because its logic suggests that criminologists might very well be active agents in the reproduction of social disadvantages known to foster criminal activities (Sampson and Wilson, 1995; Wilson, 1987, 1996). If criminology ever is to decrease inequalities in justice, the field must first come to grips with whether criminology itself contributes to discrimination, social inequalities and crime, and, in turn, develop and consciously adhere to methodological approaches that minimize the discipline’s discriminatory practices and contributions to social inequalities and crime.
This paper (1) begins by reviewing the paradigm of pure sociology and the preliminary theory of offender-based research proposed by Jacques and Wright (2008a, 2010), (2) then provides a theoretical proposition that explains recruitment to offender-based research as an inverse function of variation in the social status of offenders, (3) discusses the implications of that proposition for criminology’s role in the reproduction of social inequalities and crime, and (4) concludes by providing an agenda for future work aimed at theorizing, researching, and ameliorating discriminatory research, social inequalities, and crime.
Before proposing a theory of social status and offender-based research, it is necessary to review the paradigm in which the theory is nested – pure sociology. The “goal” of pure sociology is to produce and refine valid, testable, general, simple, and original theories that explain social behavior as the outcome of variation in social structure (Black, 1995; cf. Popper, 2002). In the language of pure sociology, social structure is defined by the relative social status of every actor (person or group) involved in a social situation, and also by the relative social distance between every actor involved in that situation.
There are at least five kinds of social status and three kinds of social distance (Black, 1998; Phillips and Cooney, 2005). The five kinds of social status are vertical status, radial status, corporate status, symbolic status, and normative status. Vertical status increases in tandem with an actor’s wealth or rank; radial status increases according to the amount of work or family life an actor has; corporate status is measured by the amount of memberships or organizations an actor has or takes part in; symbolic status is a direct function of the quantity of knowledge held by an actor and also of the conventionality of that actor’s culture; and, the normative status of an actor decreases as more social control – whether formal (e.g., imprisonment) or informal (e.g., retaliation) – is applied to that actor’s behavior.
The three kinds of social distance are relational distance, organizational distance, and cultural distance. Relational distance decreases as the amount of intimacy between two or more actors increases; organizational distance varies inversely with the number of common memberships held by actors; and, cultural distance increases as actors become more distinct in their culture (e.g., language).
The task for pure sociologists is to determine how variation across situations in actors’ relative wealth, community involvement, integration, organization, culture, and respectability leads to variation in social behavior (see Black, 1995; Horwitz, 1990). Broadly speaking, there are five distinct forms of social behavior that pure sociology attempts to explain as a function of social structure: wealth; community; organization; culture; and, social control.
For instance, pure sociology has been used to explain economic behaviors such as welfare (Michalski, 2003) and predation (Cooney and Phillips 2002; Cooney 2006; Jacques and Wright, 2010), and also has been applied to cultural behaviors such as ideas (Black 2000), medicine (Black 1998:164-5), and art (Black, 1998:168-9). The majority of prior work in pure sociology has focused on making sense of forms of social control, such as law (Black, 1976, 1989), self-help (Black 1983; Cooney, 1998; Phillips 2003; Phillips and Cooney 2005), avoidance (Baumgartner 1988), therapy (Horwitz, 1982; Tucker, 1999), terrorism (Black, 2004), and control of research by Institutional Review Boards (Jacques and Wright, forthcoming-b). In short, pure sociology seeks to determine how the social structure of situations affects the form, style, and quantity of social behavior that emerges from those situations.
Although method is first and foremost a means of knowledge production, it is also a social behavior that can be quantified and, thus, theoretically explained. Offender-based research is a social behavior defined as the process of obtaining information about criminals through conversation with or observation of former or active lawbreakers (see, e.g., Copes, Forsyth, and Brunson 2007; Jacobs and Wright, 2006; Jacques and Wright, 2008b, 2008c; Morselli, 2001; Zhang, Chin, and Miller, 2007). There are at least three distinct parts of offender-based research: recruitment; remuneration; and, data collection (Jacques and Wright, 2008a, 2010; also see Dunlap and Johnson, 1999; Wright et al., 1992).
Recruitment is defined as the process whereby one actor locates and asks another to participate in research, and is a quantitative variable measurable by the number of times an offender is asked to participate in research by an individual or group of actors. Remuneration is defined as payment for cooperation in research, and is a quantitative variable measurable by the amount of services or objects provided to research participants and recruiters. Data collection is defined as the process through which knowledge about crime is ascertained by researchers through conversation with or observation of criminals; data collection is a quantitative variable measurable by the quantity of valid information gathered.
Just as there are at least three key behaviors in offender-based research, there are also three key social roles in such research – researcher, recruiter, and offender. Researcher is defined as an actor who obtains data via conversation with or observation of criminals. Recruiter is defined as an individual who engages in the recruitment of criminals for participation in research, but who does not participate in data collection (as defined above). Offender is defined as a person who has (had) personal involvement in behavior that is defined or treated as illegal by the government.
Researchers, recruiters, and offenders vary in social status and also in the amount of social distance between them. For instance, some researchers are richer than others, and some offenders are richer than researchers. Some researchers are subject to less social control than others, and some recruiters are subject to more social control than others by researchers. Similarly, all of the researchers and offenders in one offender-based study might be friends and of the same ethnicity, but in another study the offenders might all be unknown to and of a different ethnicity from the researchers.
Taken as a whole, the above concepts suggest that a purely sociological theory of offender-based research is primarily concerned with specifying how the social status of and social distance between researchers, recruiters, and offenders affect recruitment to offender-based research, remuneration for participation, and the quantity and validity of data collected.
Jacques and Wright (2008a, 2010) have begun to develop a purely sociological theory of method. One aspect of their theory argues that as the amount of prior interaction between a researcher, recruiter, offender, and each other’s associates (e.g., friends, family, and colleagues) increases (i.e., as their relational distance decreases), then the probability that the offender will be recruited increases, the amount of remuneration provided for participation decreases, and the quantity and validity of data collected increases. This theory predicts, for example, that a researcher’s or recruiter’s criminal-friends are more likely to be recruited for research than are criminal-strangers, that the former group will be paid less for participation, and yet will provide more valid data (Jacques and Wright, 2008a).
In a more recent paper, Jacques and Wright (2010) supplement their preliminary theory of method by examining how normative status, or respectability, affects offender-based research. Recall that, by definition, the normative status of an actor decreases as the amount of social control applied to that person increases. The theory proposed by Jacques and Wright hypothesizes that as the normative status of an offender decreases, that actor is more likely to be recruited for research, more likely to receive less remuneration for participation, and less likely to provide valid and plentiful data. For instance, prisoners are lower in normative status than offenders who are not institutionalized; thus, so the theory goes, prisoners are more likely than “free criminals” to be recruited for offender-based research, more likely to receive less money or other goods for participation, and less likely to tell the truth and provide a plentiful amount of information.
This paper seeks to extend the above line of theorizing. In doing so, it employs a strategy somewhat analogous to theorizing how the behavior of offenders leads to arrest : Eligibility for recruitment (arrest) to offender-based research is defined by legislation, and we want to explain why actors who commit the same crime are not equally likely to be recruited (arrested) for research.
As already noted, “recruitment” is a quantifiable social behavior and “offenders” are quantifiable social actors. Because recruitment and offenders’ social status are quantitative variables, it should be possible to determine how the social status of offenders affects their recruitment to offender-based research.
Before specifying how the social status of offenders might affect their chance of being recruited to research, we must first “set the theoretical stage” by briefly reviewing Black’s (1976) theory of law and Jacques and Wright’s (2010) theoretical principle of normative status and recruitment. When combined, the logic of these theories provides the grounding for a theory of how offenders’ social status affects their recruitment to research.
“Law,” in the language of pure sociology, “is governmental social control. It is, in other words, the normative life of a state and its citizens, such as legislation, litigation, and adjudication.” (p. 2) Law is a quantitative variable that is measurable empirically. Generally speaking, “the quantity of law is known by the number and scope of prohibitions, obligations, and other standards to which people are subject, and by the rate of legislation, litigation, and adjudication.” (p. 3). By definition, as more law is applied to an actor, that actor’s normative status decreases.
Black (1976, 1989, 1998) has proposed a theory of law that uses social structure to explain variation in the quantity of government social control applied to cases of deviance (e.g., drug consumption or homicide). Although there is more to Black’s theory of law, one key idea is the following: the lower the social status of offenders, the more law will be applied to them for a given crime (Black, 1976). Stated differently, Black’s theory predicts that holding constant involvement in a particular criminal action (e.g., burglary or murder), the amount of law that punishes that action varies inversely with the vertical, radial, corporate, symbolic, and normative status of the offender. Extant research provides support for the idea that low-status persons are the most likely to be arrested, prosecuted, and punished for their crimes (see, among many others, Beckett, Nyrop, and Pfingst, 2006; Golub, Johnson, and Dunlap, 2006; Pettit and Western, 2004; Phillips, 2008; Kan and Phillips, 2003).
It is easy to understand the truism, “the (socially) rich get (socially) richer and the (socially) poor get (socially) poorer”, when thinking about Black’s theory of law. What we are implying is that social status and subjection to law have reciprocal effects – lower status leads to more subjection to law, and more subjection to law leads to lower status. If the lowest status persons are the most likely to be socially controlled by the government (which by definition lowers their normative status), and, in turn, subjection to law reduces people’s ability to gain employment (radial status), earn money (vertical status), get married (radial status), and obtain an education (symbolic status) (see Western, 2006), then a logical conclusion is that low status begets low status, which is in part a function of the discriminatory effect of law. In short, social inequalities lead to the reproduction of social inequalities.
In a recent paper, Jacques and Wright (2010) explored how normative status might affect, among other things, recruitment to offender-based research. Their theory argues that the likelihood of a criminal being recruited to offender-based research increases as the amount of governmental social control applied to that actor increases (i.e., as that person’s normative status decreases). In other words, the normative status of offenders varies inversely with their probability of being recruited to research; see figure 1.
--SEE FIGURE 1--
The theory predicts several empirically testable hypotheses. It hypothesizes, for example, that prisoners are more likely than “free criminals” to be recruited for offender-based research because the former group is lower in normative status. It also suggests that murderers are more likely than burglars to be recruited for research because the penalty for murder is more severe (and so murderers are lower in normative status). The hypothesis also predicts that a career criminal is more likely to be recruited than a one time offender because the latter has higher normative status, having engaged in less illegal behavior (regardless of how many times either “offender” has been caught or punished).
How might variability in the social status of offenders affect their likelihood of being recruited to offender-based research? When Black’s (1976) theory of law is combined with the theorizing of Jacques and Wright (2010), what emerges is a theory of how offenders’ social status affects their recruitment to research. Black’s (1976) theory of law predicts that institutionalized offenders are disproportionately low in social status, meaning that holding constant an actor’s relative involvement in crime, the probability of being institutionalized for crime increases as the social status of that offender decreases. In addition, Jacques and Wright’s theory suggests that criminals with lower normative status (e.g., ones who are institutionalized) are more likely to be recruited for research than are ones with higher status (e.g., free criminals). This means that holding constant an actor’s relative involvement in crime, the probability of being recruited for offender-based research increases as that actor has more formal control applied to her or his behavior (i.e., experiences a reduction in normative status).
If offenders who are low in social status are the most likely to be subjected to law (e.g., prison), and, in turn, offenders with low normative status (e.g., those in prison) are the most likely to be recruited for offender-based research, then this suggests that the social status of offenders varies inversely with their likelihood of being recruited to research. Follow this path of reasoning: If we accept that holding constant their relative involvement in crime, low social status persons are the most likely group to be arrested, prosecuted, or punished by the government (Black, 1976), and controlling for the size of their respective populations and relative involvement in crime, institutionalized offenders are more likely than free criminals to be recruited for offender-based research (Jacques and Wright, 2010), then we come to the logical conclusion that institutionalized offenders are the most likely group to be recruited for offender-based research because they have the lowest social status.
If the effect of all forms of status on recruitment to offender-based research mirrors the effect of normative status on that social behavior, then we come to the following falsifiable hypothesis:
As an actor’s social status (vertical, radial, corporate, symbolic, or normative) decreases, that actor’s recruitment to offender-based research increases.
Put differently, as an offender becomes poorer or lower ranking, less integrated into their community, more culturally distinct, loses memberships, fails to learn new things, or is subjected to greater levels of social control, that offender becomes increasingly recruited for criminological research; see figure 2.
--SEE FIGURE 2--
Empirically speaking, the above theoretical proposition suggests that for any given time period (e.g., a month or a year), the number of times any given offender is approached and talked to about the possibility of participating in research should vary inversely with that offender’s social status (however measured). Thus, lower status lawbreakers should more often be recruited for offender-based research than are higher status criminals. What this means in the language of pure sociology is that offender-based research, because it is more likely to involve low status criminals than high status ones, is clearly and inescapably discriminatory.
The recruitment of offenders is a key aspect of offender-based research (see Jacques and Wright, 2008a, 2010), but it is also part of two broader endeavors – criminology and science. Sir Francis Bacon (1939: 56) believed “the true and lawful goal of the sciences is not other than this: that human life be endowed with new discoveries and powers.” This means there are two ends to science – knowledge (discoveries) and control (power). Pure science is concerned with advancing knowledge; applied science is concerned with extending control. Thus, there are two key forms of criminology: pure and applied. The former is concerned with knowledge production, the latter with control.
“Social control is the normative aspect of social life. It defines and responds to deviant behavior, specifying what ought to be: What is right and wrong… Law is social control…, but so too are etiquette, custom, ethics, bureaucracy, and the treatment of mental illness” (Black, 1976: 105). Applied criminology, it would seem, is a form of social control. If law is defined as “government social control” (Black, 1976: 2), and social control is defined as definitions and responses to deviant behavior (see Black, 1976: 105, 1998: 4), then we might define criminology as a science that defines and responds to deviance that is defined and responded to by the government. To the degree that criminology is applied science, it is social control.
If criminology is a form of social control, and subjection to social control reduces normative status, then what this implies is that – by definition – recruitment to offender-based research reduces the normative status of the offenders who are recruited. In other words, the more a criminal is recruited to applied criminological research, then the lower is that offender’s normative status.
Extant theories in pure sociology, namely those of Black (1976) and Jacques and Wright (2010), suggest that normative status has a causal effect on discrimination in social life. Black’s (1976) theory of law argues that as the normative status of an offender decreases, the amount of law applied to that actor’s behavior increases. Jacques and Wright’s (2010) theory of method argues that as an offender’s normative status decreases, their likelihood of being recruited to offender-based research increases.
If subjection to law and recruitment to research reduce an actor’s normative status (and by definition they do), and if lower normative status leads to more subjection to law (Black, 1976) and recruitment to research (Jacques and Wright, 2010), then the following falsifiable hypotheses emerge:
As an actor’s recruitment to offender-based research increases, that actor’s subjection to law increases.
As an actor’s subjection to law increases, that actor’s recruitment to offender-based research increases.
In other words, law and recruitment are two social behaviors that have reciprocal effects on each other that are mediated by variation in the normative status of offenders; see figure 3.
--SEE FIGURE 3--
The more often an offender is arrested, prosecuted, or institutionalized by the government, the more likely that person is to be recruited to criminological research. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, the more often an offender is recruited to criminological research, the more likely that person is to be arrested, prosecuted, or institutionalized by the government. This literally means that when holding all else equal, an increase in applied criminological research might increase the amount of law applied to offenders, and an increase in the amount of law applied to offenders might increase criminological research.
Criminological research clearly demonstrates that subjection to law enforcement, especially imprisonment, has a detrimental impact on the social status of the persons who are socially controlled (and also their families and communities, but we leave this point aside in the present paper). Western (2006), for instance, convincingly demonstrates that former prisoners are less likely to finish school (symbolic status), find employment (radial status), earn a greater wage over time (vertical status), and get married (radial status).
If it is true that (1) subjection to law leads to lower social status of all kinds, and (2) recruitment to offender-based research increases subjection to law, then we come to the following falsifiable hypothesis:
As an actor’s recruitment to offender-based research increases, the social status of that actor decreases.
Stated differently, if subjection to law subsequently reduces one’s social status, and recruitment to research subsequently increases one’s subjection to law, then recruitment to research should subsequently reduce the criminal’s status. This is an effect mediated by the impact of recruitment to research on subjection to law and also by law’s effect on social status.
Empirically speaking, the above proposition predicts that the more often any given offender or group of offenders is recruited to offender-based research, the more likely they are to be investigated, arrested, prosecuted, or punished by the government (this by definition is a reduction in their normative status), and those offenders should, in turn, have a reduced probability of maintaining or gaining wealth or rank (vertical status), family or employment (radial status), memberships (corporate status), formal education and conventionality (symbolic status), and respectability (normative status).
So now we can turn to the question: What is criminology’s role in the reproduction of social inequalities? In the language of pure sociology, “the reproduction of social inequalities” refers to social processes which maintain or decrease the low social status of some actors, or which maintain or increase the high social status of other actors. The application of law, for instance, occurs more often when offenders are low in social status (Black, 1976), and because subjection to law leads to lower social status (Western, 2006), the discriminatory behavior of law against low status offenders results in the reproduction of social inequalities because subjection to law further reduces those actors’ (already relatively low) social status.
If, as argued in this paper, lower status offenders are more likely to be recruited for offender-based research, and greater recruitment to criminological research leads to lower levels of social status, then the argument can be made that offender-based research is involved in the reproduction of social inequalities.
Which offenders are most likely to be recruited for offender-based research? The ones who are poor, unemployed, unmarried, unorganized, lack formal education, belong to a racial/ethnic minority, and have a history of subjection to law. Which offenders are most likely to have their social status reduced by recruitment to offender-based research? Again, it is the ones who are already relatively low in social status.
Because criminology is relatively likely to involve low status actors, and because criminology reduces the social status of the persons researched, criminology is an active agent in the reproduction of social inequalities; see figure 4.
--SEE FIGURE 4--
This paper has addressed a relatively unexplored topic that has theoretical, methodological, and ethical implications: Does the social status of offenders have an effect on recruitment to offender-based research? We examined that question by looking through the theoretical lens of pure sociology, and built on Jacques and Wright’s (2008a, 2010) theory of method by proposing a theoretical proposition that is empirically falsifiable: As an actor’s social status (vertical, radial, corporate, symbolic, or normative) decreases, that actor’s recruitment to offender-based research increases.
This theoretical idea has more than academic significance because it suggests that criminology might be involved in the reproduction of social inequalities. If criminology is a form of social control, and being subjected to social control increases one’s subjection to law and reduces one’s social status, then criminology can be said to play an active part in the reproduction of social inequalities because (1) researchers are more likely to recruit low status offenders than high status ones, and, therefore, (2) researchers are more likely to reduce the normative status of low status offenders, which, in turn, (3) makes low status offenders more likely to lose social status. It is troubling to think that such a social process might be occurring, especially because theory and empirical evidence suggest that reductions in social status lead to increases in crime (Black, 1976, 1983; Sampson and Wilson, 1995; Wilson, 1987, 1996). If criminologists are reducing the social status of offenders, then they also may indirectly be increasing crime.
The future of criminology should include a critical, theoretical, and empirical self-appraisal of how the field may be contributing to social inequalities and crime. Toward this end, theorists and empirical researchers need to work together to determine how and to what degree criminology is affecting social inequalities and crime. In turn, those findings should be developed into theoretically and empirically guided methodologies capable of reducing discriminatory research practices and their role in the reproduction of social inequalities and crime. These three ventures – theory development, testing, and the production of equitable research practices – are discussed below.
Although this paper is grounded in the perspective of pure sociology, it is surely not the only paradigm that can be used to explain inequitable practices in criminological research (see Jacques and Wright, 2008a, 2010). Alternative theories should be – indeed must be – applied to the following questions: What characteristics of people, groups, and situations affect whether research is discriminatory in its treatment of research subjects? Do these explanatory factors and methodologies lead to the reproduction of social inequalities and thereby exacerbate crime? And, how can these negative influences on criminology and crime be offset or eliminated?
Criminological perspectives with the potential to answer these questions include, among others, social-learning theory (Akers and Jensen, 2006), rational choice theory (Clarke and Cornish, 1985), and routine activity theory (Cohen and Felson, 1979). Consider two examples that illustrate the relevance of alternative paradigms for theorizing discriminatory methods and their role in the reproduction of social inequalities and crime.
Sampson (2009) has recently proposed a psychological theory that suggests – at least to us – that (1) if researchers disproportionately study low status offenders, (2) the result is that those persons are perceived to be involved in more crime than they are in reality, (3) which subsequently makes it more difficult for them to maintain or gain social status, (4) and, in turn, this makes them more likely to be involved in crime because they have fewer legitimate opportunities. In other words, criminology shapes perceptions of who is involved in crime. It might be said that criminologists are active agents in labeling certain kinds of people as criminals.
Another perspective, namely critical theory (see, e.g., Marx,  1990; for a review and examples, see Vold, Bernard, and Snipes, 1998260-283), suggests that criminology may be a tool of society’s most powerful members to “keep down” the weak and vulnerable. Criminologists are the bourgeois; criminals are the proletariats. The bourgeois become richer and more powerful by abusing the proletariat and failing to fairly redistribute the rewards of labor – such as providing information for criminological research. Rather than uplift “criminals” from their low social standing, the criminologically-inclined bourgeois use “science” to oppress persons of low status and, in the process, earn a paycheck and respect for themselves. A time may come when the proletariat-criminals revolt against the bourgeois-criminologists and overthrow the field as we know it in order to make it more equitable and ethical in its study of crime. We may be seeing the seeds of such a movement with the advent of “convict criminology” (see, e.g., Irwin, 1987).
After theoretical models of discriminatory research have been specified, then researchers should aid theorists, criminology, and society by putting the “(yet)-to-be-developed” theories of criminology, social inequality, and crime to the test. This will require the collection of quantitative and qualitative data that bear on those theories’ predictions.
Qualitative data will be particularly useful in illustrating and elucidating both objective and subjective processes. Quantitative data may be statistically analyzed to determine whether theoretical predictions are significant and substantive. In the end, however, both quantitative and qualitative methods should be employed because all numbers come from stories, and all stories contain numbers.
To be clear, what is perhaps the most important contribution of this paper is that it provides predictions that can be falsified or supported through empirical research. In other words, we have made statements that can be shown to be wrong; this is what separates science from philosophy and religion. Because the theory is falsifiable, it allows for criminology and the science of method to progress in a more efficient manner. Although the theory in this paper is somewhat speculative, its validity can be ascertained and subsequently accepted, altered, or discredited based on empirical findings. This is how science progresses (see Popper, 2002).
We hope researchers will take up the challenge of testing our theory and alternative explanations. Our theory may be tested with various strategies. For example, it is well-known that imprisonment has a negative effect on social status, meaning as the former increases then the latter decreases (see, e.g., Western, 2006). This paper has argued that involvement in criminological research as a participant also reduces one’s social status. To test our theory, it will be necessary to disentangle these two separate processes. How may this be accomplished? One possible strategy is a controlled experiment where prisoners are randomly assigned to research, with some participating on a frequent basis, others on a one-time occasion, and others not at all. If other factors are controlled for, differences among the three groups in recividism and social status may be interpreted as the outcome of subjection to research. This is but one example of how to empirically evaluate our theory; we encourage researchers to develop and apply others.
If criminology is to decrease inequalities in justice and crime, it must develop and consciously adhere to methodological approaches that minimize criminology’s discriminatory practices. Toward that end, criminologists should use theory and research findings to generate – and empirically validate – theoretically-situated, practical suggestions for how researchers might reduce their discrimination in the recruitment of offenders. If such science-inspired policies for research are effective, the end result might be the reduction of social inequalities and crime.
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