Object and Subject: The Challenges of Peer Research in Community Justice

Published 13/10/2004
Type Article
Author(s) Caroline O’Keeffe
Corresponding Authors Caroline O’Keeffe, Sheffield Hallam University

This paper reports on the process of conducting peer research in order to identify barriers to employment, training and education (hereafter referred to as ETE) for women (ex)offenders. In this study (which is part of an overall programme called Women into Work)i members of the target group (primarily (ex) offenders)ii adopted the role of active researchers, interviewing their peer group about their experiences of ETE. The objectives of the peer research were twofold:

• To provide a sound evidence base from which to commission pilot projects to address the needs of women (ex)offenders when attempting to access ETE;
• To encourage the empowerment of peer researchers by increasing their skills and self esteem and thus enhancing their employability

This paper uses the Women into Work programme as a case study to reflect upon the steps taken to facilitate the involvement of women (ex)offenders in conducting qualitative research with their peer group and also considers the particular implications of using this approach with this cohort of women. The paper also begins to consider wider methodological and epistemological debates around peer research and its potential as a methodology within  community justice.