Tips On Interviewing Prisoners

Posted December 18, 2018 by Bill Wheelhouse

Journalist’s Resource is out with a tip sheet on interviewing white-collar prisoners. They come from Eugene Soltes who shared what he learned while doing research for Why They Do It: Inside the Mind of the White-Collar Criminal. Here are the bullet points on that article and a link to the full discussion that adds good context to these suggestions.

  1. Don’t lead with personal questions and questions that probe into the meatiest details of a convict’s crimes. Focus first on developing trust.
  2. Have a plan for whether and how you’ll use sensitive information that sources might divulge once they trust you.
  3. If you want prisoners to talk to you, write them a letter.
  4. When interviewing individuals who are incarcerated, choose phone calls over in-person meetings. You can develop a rapport more quickly through four 15-minute phone calls than one hour-long, in-person conversation.
  5. Establish a system of checking your biases to limit the impact your relationships with sources could have on your work.
  6. If you’re describing someone’s feelings, opinions or mindset, consider letting that person review what you have written to make sure it represents them accurately.

Read the full article here.