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Conducting Oral Histories Abroad: International Student Research in Belize Central Prison

By: & Published: 2020 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 1
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In 2002, a non-profit organization, The Kolbe Foundation, was given control of Belize Central Prison, the only prison in the country, by the government of Belize. Since that time, the foundation has worked to make infrastructure improvements, reduce overcrowding, professionalize the officers and staff, and add numerous educational, rehabilitative, and vocational opportunities for inmates. We set out to document this historic change with two groups of student researchers; in 2014, students interviewed prison employees including officers, staff, and administrators. In 2016, we, along with our students, interviewed the majority of the female inmates housed within the women’s block of the prison. Below, we document the challenges of setting up an international project from afar, making sure to adhere to both American and in-country ethical standards; explain how we selected and trained primarily undergraduate student researchers; discuss the challenges we faced with sample selection, conducting interviews inside a working prison, and transcribing Creole English; and explain why a mix of denaturalized and naturalized data presentation offers future scholars the best opportunity to use existing data. In doing so, we offer one possible blueprint for future projects and numerous points for consideration among emerging researchers.

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Methods Map

Oral history interviews

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