As defined (see Richards & Ross, 2001:180; Ross & Richards, 2003:6), Convict Criminology represents the work of convicts or ex-convicts, in possession of a Ph.D. or on their way to completing one, or enlightened academics and practitioners, who contribute to a new conversation about crime and corrections.
This is a "New Criminology" led by former prisoners who are now academic faculty. The Convict Criminology group tends to do research that illustrates the experiences of prisoners and ex-cons, attempts to combat the misrepresentations of scholars, the media and government, and to propose new and less costly strategies that are more humane and effective (Richards & Ross, 2003a, 2003b).
The convict scholars are able to do what many previous researchers could not; merge their past with
their present and provide a provocative approach to the academic study of their field. The convict
criminology perspective is also based on perceptions, experiences, and analytical ideas that
originate with defendants and prisoners, and are then developed by critical scholars
(Richards & Ross, 2003a, 2003b).
Different members of the group lead or take responsibility for assorted functions; for example, lead author on a conference paper, or academic article, research proposal, program assessment, mentoring students or junior faculty, or media contact. Ideally, the lead person invites one or more Convict Criminology colleagues to share the work and through this process attempts to generalize the discussion, and socialize the membership into the norms of academia.
The group continues to grow as more prisoners exit prison to attend universities, hear about the group, and decide to contribute to activities. Typically, new members resolve to "come out" when they are introduced to the academic community at the American Society of Criminology (ASC) or the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS) conferences.
The group does not exclude or discriminate by criminal offense. The general premise is that when a person completes their sentence they have paid for their crime, any crime. The group is not limited to students and faculty who research or teach in Criminology, Criminal Justice, Sociology, and Social Work. Convict Criminology may also include ex-cons or "non-cons" who work outside of academia, including government agencies, private foundations, or community groups.
Finally, there is a growing group of men and women behind bars who hold advanced degrees and publish academic work about crime and corrections (i.e., Rideau & Wikberg, 1992; Hassine, 2004; Paluch, 2004; K.C. Carceral, 2004, 2006). At the present time, the Convict Criminology group includes men and women ex-con academics from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Finland. The U.S., with the largest prison population in the world, continues to contribute the most members.
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