Agency Records, Secondary Data, Content Analysis
Agency records, are considered secondary data, and content analysis do not require direct interaction with research subjects.
Criminal justice research uses data collected by state and local agencies such as
courts, probation officers, corrections departments, juvenile authorities.
Content analysis research examining class of social artifacts, written documents or other types of messages.
Information collected by others is frequently used in criminal justice research, these are secondary analysis.
National institute of justice releases their data for public use. Usually this data is conducted by others. Someone else gathers the original data, usually for purpose that is different than our.
Content Analysis -data from agency records or archive may have originally been gathered in one of two ways
1. Published statistics and agency records are most common.
BJS Bureau of Justice Statistics (prison populations)
2. Consumer Network Data Book. Summarizes known cases of identity theft and related fraud
Sex offenders (Berenson and Appelbaum 2010)
Incarceration and general populations James Austin and associates (2007)
Perception of crime problems individual behavior and criminal justice policy (Anderson and Bushman 2002)
Content Analysis - Recovery life history data -National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS)
Types of Agency Records -
Researchers use a variety of published statistics and non-public agency records.
They fall in the following categories
Types of Agency Records
Nonpublic agency records
New data collected by agency staff for a specific research purpose
Administrative office of U.S. Courts
Federal Bureau of prisons
Census Bureau- (sampling surveys from other federal organizations)
Bureau of Justice Statistics
Federal Criminal Case Processing- details on federal court activity.
Sourcebook of criminal Justice statistics- Summarized hundreds of criminal justice agencies, tables, and how states execute capital offenders.
Source book available on the web at www.albany.edu/sourcebook)
Correctional Populations- examine trends in prison populations over time.
Uniform Crime Report –(UCR)
Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN)
Drug Use Forecasting (DUF)
Reliability & Validity
Understanding the details of how agency records are collected is the best guard against reliability and validity problems.
Fortunately, most published reports are regular data series and present basic information on definitions and collection procedure
Agency data are not designed for research. Agencies tend to collect data for their own use not for the use of researchers.
Data in records produced by formal organizations may be the most common source of data in criminal justice research.
Many public organizations produce statistics and data for public record, and this data are often useful for criminal justice research.
Organizations keep nonpublic records for internal operation purposes, and these records are viable sources of data for criminal justice research.
Although agency records have many potential research uses, because they are not produced for purposes other than researched the may be unsuitable for a specific study.
The advantages and disadvantages of using secondary data or similar to those for agency records data produced and collected by a researcher may not match our needs.
Ethics- Potential danger to field researchers should be considered. Exercise safety!
Ethical issues in Research-
Conduct a scientific inquiry. Ethical issues in criminal justice can be challenging because of our research questions frequently address illegal behavior.
No Harm to participants- Social research potentially can cause harm or embarrassment to people who are asked to reveal information about themselves.
Don't subject yourselves to domestic violence situations, crime surveys are dangerous (field research).
Voluntary participation- don't ask a person to be part of your social research that might put them in risk. All participation is voluntary.
Anonymity/- a research subject is considered anonymous when the researcher cannot associate a given piece of information with the person.
Confidentiality/- A researcher who is linked to information is not provided confidentiality. Such as, interviewing a drug user who discloses their source.
Deceiving subjects- don't do it.
Deceiving subjects is unethical
Analysis and Reporting
Any negative findings should be reported. If it doesn't fit within your hypothesis, still report it.
if you witness a crime while conducting your research, you must report that crime. You have a duty to law as well as research, however if you witness a crime you become a witness.
Staff Misbehavior- If you witness staff misbehaving while you are conducting research, you must report it. At times, researchers are placed in position where you witness elements of a crime in a halfway house.