Gaining access and managing gatekeepers: Undertaking criminological research with those ‘within’ the system

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At a time when criminal justice systems internationally are facing new challenges surrounding the openness, cost and effectiveness of justice, the interaction between those within the system and those researching its operation is increasingly important. For criminologists, a better understanding of the experiences and perceptions of those operating at all levels of the justice system yields valuable insight surrounding the practical operation of the law. Such insight allows research to go beyond an analysis of how the law should operate and justice should be achieved, to understand how this actually occurs in practice. This is increasingly important in light of research that identifies a gap between the intent of legislation and reform, and its subsequent operation. In emphasising the importance of criminological research that penetrates barriers between those researching and those operating within the law, this chapter examines the use of qualitative research interviews with members of the criminal justice system. It considers issues surrounding gaining access to those within the system alongside the value of research that does so. The chapter also emphasises the importance of managing and maintaining research partnerships with members of the criminal justice system.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLiquid Criminology
Subtitle of host publicationDoing imaginative criminological research
EditorsMichael Hviid Jacobsen, Sandra Walklate
Place of PublicationAbingdon Oxon UK
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781315592503
ISBN (Print)9781472455239
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • research methods
  • qualitative research
  • interviews
  • criminal justice system
  • criminology
  • justice

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