Guns, Violence, and Identity among African American and Latino Youth

By Deanna L. Wilkinson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
The Research Process

The author, in collaboration by Dr. Jeffrey Fagan, conducted the original study at Columbia University from 1995 to 1998. Interviews were conducted with a targeted sample of 125 active violent offenders from two New York City neighborhoods. The primary field methods were in-depth interviews and biographical methods focusing on the social and symbolic construction of violent events (Cornish, 1993; Cornish, 1994). The interviews were quite detailed, and in addition to the violent events of primary interest, cover a wide range of topics including neighborhood violence, family experiences, school, employment, friends, guns, drug use, and future goals. Finally, respondents were asked to reconstruct three violent events: one where guns were present and were used, one where guns were present and were not used, and one where guns were not present. Data were collected on at least one violent event per person, with an average of 2.44 events per individual. Events included both “completed” and noncompleted violent situations; the latter group included events where violence was avoided in a variety of situational and social contexts. ”Peer” interviewers were used to increase interviewer-respondent rapport and enhance data collection efforts. Proximate age, race/ethnicity, and gender matches between the interviewer and interviewee were deemed necessary for success of the study.

The study design included sampling from two primary targeted pools: a recently released sample of young violent offenders and a matched sample drawn from the study neighborhoods. Eligible respondents were males, from 16-24 years of age, who either were convicted of illegal possession of handguns or other violent offenses (criminal justice sample), or who, upon screening, were identified as actively involved in these behaviors in the past six months (neighborhood sample). The recently released sample consists of young men who were released from Rikers Island Academy between April, 1995 and December, 19963 and who, upon release, entered a membership program called Friends of Island Academy, Guys Insight on Imprisonment for Teenagers (G.I.I.F.T.).4 The neighborhood

3 The interviews were conducted from June, 1995 and March, 1997.

4Friends of Island Academy (Friends) is a non-profit organization founded in

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