groups » Regulations and Guidelines » Ethics of research in prisons

Hello, does anyone have any experience of doing research in prisons? How is confidentiality ensured for the encarcerated population given that they live in close quarters and it will known and seen that they are getting tested for TB and HIV? Any ideas would help me. Thank you.

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  • Susan Susan Bull 14 Oct 2015

    This is a really interesting issue – I'm sorry I don't have any expertise in conducting research in prisons – but I hope the following thoughts and resources might be helpful.

    It can be challenging to preserve confidentiality in a range of studies – hospital wards are one example where people are often in close quarters and can identify who is participating in research. Are there some suggestions about preserving confidentiality from these other settings that might be useful in a prison setting?

    If not – and confidentiality cannot be assured – is this something that may lead to this particular study not being conducted at all because the risks in this case are seen as too high? Or alternatively could sessions informing the potential participants about the research be very open about the possibility that prisoners will be able to identify who is taking part in the research – so those who consent to the study are informed about the challenges of preserving confidentiality and can reach a decision accordingly.

    There's a poster from a study in the US about HIV research in prisons - the findings revealed prisoners perceived a range of potential risks for harm and potential benefits associated with participation in HIV/AIDS research. The major risks of participation were related to breaches of confidentiality and privacy, but other important issues were the potential for coercion from prison staff, and potential psychosocial distress. The major benefits of participation were related to the access of otherwise unavailable services, contact with research staff outside of the correctional setting, and HIV/AIDS/STI education.
    The poster is available here:
    https://www.uaa.alaska.edu/researchethics/hivdrugsandprisoners/upload/pros-cons-poster-final-CMYK.pdf.
    More results of the project are available here:
    https://www.uaa.alaska.edu/researchethics/hivdrugsandprisoners/results.cfm

    More generally in relation to ethics and research with prisoners - some additional resources that might be useful are:

    - A special issue in Bioethics
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/bioe.2010.24.issue-1/issuetoc
    With a subsequent letter to the Editor at:
    http://escholarship.org/uc/item/9kc30810#page-1

    - The US Institute of Medicine Report on Ethical Considerations for Research Involving Prisoners
    http://www.nap.edu/download.php?record_id=11692

    - An article in the Journal of Medical ethics on Prisoners as research participants: current practice and attitudes in the UK
    http://jme.bmj.com/content/early/2014/05/16/medethics-2012-101059.short?rss=1

    I hope some of these might be helpful.

  • tmekonnen20 Tigist Mekonnen 20 Oct 2015

    This is a really interesting issue – I'm sorry I don't have any expertise in conducting research in prisons

  • nao tenho experiencia nessa questao,porem a confidencialidade da população encarcerada, e menos relevante do que a disseminaçao do hiv/tb nos presidios,pois trata-se de um assunto de saúde pública.

  • angellaniwa NIWAGABA ANGELLA 11 Oct 2019

    Am sorry I don't have experience in conducting research in prison

  • angellaniwa NIWAGABA ANGELLA 11 Oct 2019

    The US institute of medicine report on ethical considerations for research involving prisoners

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