[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
November 6, 1967

Why Prisoners Volunteer to Be Experimental Subjects

Author Affiliations

From the State University of New York at Buffalo and Edward J. Meyer Memorial Hospital, Buffalo.

JAMA. 1967;202(6):511-512. doi:10.1001/jama.1967.03130190117017

Recently, while engaged in a clinical experiment, involving inmates of a nearby state prison, I became rather perplexed by the reaction of colleagues to the program. There was considerable interest in why inmates subjected themselves to such experimentation. The question most frequently raised concerned what rewards were given to such volunteers, and the prevailing attitude seemed to be that this was a group of men who were simply being exploited, albeit for a good cause. This attitude is understandable coming from one whose viewpoint stems from a rather comfortable position in society, but the view is entirely different when it comes from within the walls of prison.

In the flurry of current concern over the proper ethical guidelines of human experimentation, the rights of the subject to be protected have received attention as has the right of society for progress. I have not seen any discussion of the right of