New book explores criminals' attitudes to crime scene technologies

Published: Monday 23 April 2012
Tracing Technologies: Prisoners' Views in the Era of CSI
Tracing Technologies discusses prisoners' attitudes and understandings of forensic crime scene technologies.

Professor Barbara Prainsack’s new book, Tracing Technologies, which looks at convicts’ perceptions of crime scene technologies, will be released at the start of next month.

The Brunel Professor of Sociology and Politics of Bioscience’s book, which was written with Professor Helena Machado from the University of Minho in Portugal, will be available from 1st May.

Drawing on over fifty interviews with prisoners in Portugal and Austria, they discuss prisoners’ attitudes and understandings of forensic crime scene technologies.

This area was previously under-explored, with scholarly work focusing on the opinions of the police, public, judges, and jurors surrounding the use of such technologies instead.

Professor Prainsack said: “In some instances, we found things that we weren’t surprised to find – for example, that many prisoners had a lot of practical knowledge on how to avoid, or in some cases even destroy, crime scene traces.

“Other findings were more surprising: For example, that many of the prisoners we interviewed thought that DNA evidence was more ‘dangerous’ to them than fingerprints left at a crime scene, or that many of our respondents were in favour of DNA databases to catch criminals.

“As one prisoner told us, forensic technologies are useful tools to maintain the separation between criminals and ‘normal society’. We didn’t expect to hear this from people who are negatively affected by the very existence of such tools.”

The book also discusses the so-called ‘CSI effect’, the assumption that representations of forensic technologies in mass media affect what people expect from them in real life.

Professor Machado said: “Prisoners' views on the value of science and technology in fighting crime are closely linked to media representations of forensic identification technologies and to the position they occupy in the real world of crime and criminal investigation.”

The book explores different legal, political, discursive, and historical viewpoints on how these technologies are used by the police and viewed by convicts in the two countries.

It also explores the effects that criminals believe police databases will have on their lives, careers, and futures once they have served their sentences.

Tracing Technologies will be available on 1st May. More information on Professor Prainsack’s book can be found on the Brunel University website. Relevant information on forensic DNA databases in Europe and beyond can be found in an edited volume on the topic.

Page last updated: Monday 23 April 2012