Date of Award

Spring 5-2016

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis


Criminal Justice

First Advisor

Alan Thompson

Advisor Department

Criminal Justice


Arson is a major crime in the United States. Despite this, there is a major gap in the existing literature regarding the reason why some individuals commit arson. There are currently no preventative policies that address the root of the problem: the arsonists themselves. The purpose of this project is to help fill the existing gap in literature and lay the foundation for future research on this topic. The participants for this study were obtained from a single prison. This study was conducted using a mixed qualitative methodology: correspondence and interviews with individuals convicted of arson. Using this qualitative method, the researcher compared characteristics of each arsonist and arson offense to previously created typologies and an offense cycle model in order to uncover both typified and unique characteristics of each arson offender. In addition, the information gathered through this project exposes the existence of several psychological and environmental risk factors. Information about these characteristics and risk factors can be used to guide future research and policy development. The study is unique because information about the arson offenses was obtained through the personal accounts of the offenders themselves rather than through official documents or news stories. This allowed the researcher to reveal the thought processes of the arson offenders in their own words which could be more valuable for policy development than the basic, impersonal information contained in official records.


Honors College Award: Excellence in Research