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Ethical, Regulatory, and Investigator Considerations in Prison Research

Brewer-Smyth, Kathleen PhD, RN, CRRN

doi: 10.1097/01.ANS.0000319562.84007.22

Although numbers of prison inmates are increasing rapidly, limited research addresses health-related conditions prevalent in prisons. Compelling reasons exist for prison research to address high rates of psychiatric, neurological, and other health-related conditions that may precipitate or result from incarceration, high-risk behaviors, infectious disease transmission, traumatic brain injuries, and other issues related to incarceration. Prison research is critical because inmates are frequently re-incarcerated and released, posing potential risks to themselves and the community. The purpose of this article is to provide a pragmatic overview of ethical, regulatory, and investigator considerations to facilitate critically needed research with vulnerable prison populations.

School of Nursing, College of Health Sciences, University of Delaware, Newark.

Corresponding Author: Kathleen Brewer-Smyth, PhD, RN, CRRN, School of Nursing, College of Health Sciences, University of Delaware, 313 McDowell Hall, Newark, DE 19716 (;;

This study was supported in part by grant 2 P20 RR016472-07 under the Idea Network of Biomedical Research Excellence program of the National Center for Research Resources, a component of the National Institutes of Health, University of Delaware General University Research Grant, and the University of Delaware Research Foundation. The author thanks Veronica F. Rempusheski, PhD, RN, FAAN, Jeanne K. Buxbaum, Chair of Nursing Science, University of Delaware, for manuscript review.

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.