Ethical and social issues in health research involving incarcerated people

Steven S. Coughlin, Sharon R. Lewis, Selina A. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The use of inmates in research in the U.S. was restricted by the recommendations of the National Commission and by federal regulations and guidelines that followed. By the 1980s, many health care officials became concerned about the exclusion of inmates from experimental treatments for human immunodeficiency virus infection (HIV). These developments in ethics occurred in the context of racial/ethnic disparities in health. In this article, ethical considerations in clinical and public health research on HIV in prison and jail settings are considered. Ethical considerations in mental health research are sum‑ marized as well as issues pertaining to research involving female inmates. Issues related to oversight of research involving incarcerated people are considered along with the ethics of public health research. The ethics of research involving incarcerated people extends beyond traditional issues in human subjects ethics to include issues within the domains of bioethics and public health ethics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-28
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • African Americans
  • Bioethics
  • Clinical research
  • Health status disparities
  • Hispanics
  • Human immunodeficiency virus
  • Human subjects research
  • Public health
  • Research ethics
  • Women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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