The perils and pitfalls of investigating the experiences of former detainees of the Alexander Maconochie Centre (the AMC)

Dr Caroline Doyle1

1UNSW Canberra, Canberra, Australia

The ACT has the highest recidivism rate in Australia. In 2016, 68% of detainees in the Alexander Maconochie Centre (the AMC), the ACT’s only adult correctional facility, reported having one or more prison episodes in the ACT (ACT Health 2017). Various services are available to detainees upon release from the AMC to assist them in their (re)integration and (re)habilitation (Bartels and Doyle 2018).  Understanding the experiences of former detainees provides government and non-government organisations with important insights into the design and delivery of services and ultimately to reduce levels of recidivism. To date, there has been no qualitative assessment of the experiences of detainees following their release from the AMC.

This paper presents the perils and pitfalls that qualitative researchers encountered with both recruiting and interviewing former detainees of the AMC. The paper provides important lessons for researchers, government departments and community organisations seeking to gain the insights of former detainees. These lessons include navigating research ethics guidelines, developing trust and rapport with participants and the importance of collaboration between academia, government and community organisations.


Dr Caroline Doyle is a Lecturer in the School of Business at UNSW Canberra. Her research draws from her legal and policy experience analysing how policymakers develop and implement policies to respond to social problems, such as crime and violence.  Caroline has extensive fieldwork experience in Latin America and has published on crime levels in Colombia. Caroline is the President of Prisoners Aid (ACT) and works closely with government and non-government organisations in supporting the lives of current and former detainees in the ACT.

Caroline completed her PhD at UNSW Canberra, her Bachelor of Laws (Hons) at the University of Canberra and her Bachelor of Arts at the University of Wollongong.  She is admitted as a solicitor to the ACT Supreme Court.


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