percentage may be slightly higher given that NIH and CDC may jointly fund some studies coded as having multiple funding sources).

  • It is not clear that all studies involving prisoners are being conducted with IRB review and approval. Also, prison research committees, which may serve some type of proxy IRB role, only infrequently include prisoners or prisoner representatives among their membership.

  • Biomedical research involving prisoners, particularly that of a nontherapeutic nature, is rare, perhaps as a consequence of the national commission’s 1976 report. Across the two surveys, one-third of respondents indicated that therapeutic medical studies might be permissible, and only 5 percent (two states) indicated that nontherapeutic biomedical research might be permissible. Several DOCs report that biomedical research, including potentially therapeutic research, is prohibited by state law or DOC policy. Further, medical studies with the potential for therapeutic outcome make up only 2 percent of the published prisoner research studies. Although the current regulations permit therapeutic medical studies with prisoners under certain circumstances, little such research appears to be taking place.

  • Some DOC research implementation policies may preclude potential remedies that some have suggested to ensure fair and equitable research participation by prisoners. For example, some have suggested the prisoner participants be allowed to receive incentives that, if not equal, are at least proportional to those available to nonprisoner participants in the community. Five of the six state DOCs interviewed in depth prohibit prisoner participants from receiving financial or other incentives for research participation.


Anno BJ, Dubler N. 2001. Correctional Health Care: Guidelines for the Management of an Adequate Delivery System. Chapter 4. Chicago: National Commission on Correctional Health Care.

BJS (Bureau of Justice Statistics). 1995. Probation and Parole Violators in State Prison, 1991. [Online]. Available: [accessed December 16, 2005].

BJS. 1997. Jail Inmates in Custody, by Gender, Federal and State-By-State, 1973, 1983, 1988, 1993. [Online]. Available: [accessed April 4, 2006].

BJS. 1998a. Substance Abuse and Treatment of Adults on Probation, 1995. [Online]. Available: [accessed December 16, 2005].

BJS. 1998b. Women Offenders: Programming Needs and Promising Approaches. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.

BJS. 1998c. State and Federal Corrections Information Systems. [Online]. Available: [accessed December 21, 2005].

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement