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July 1, 1974

The Prisoner As an Experimental Subject

Author Affiliations

San Francisco
From the University of California School of Medicine, San Francisco.

JAMA. 1974;229(1):45-46. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230390021016

TOO often the only concern of researchers working with prisoners is how best to use their subjects, with little regard for the institution, or for the inmate as a person.

This article is an attempt to help researchers to understand the effects of prison and imprisonment on a prisoner's capacity to enter into a research contract, and to aid in establishing criteria that will permit experimentation in prisons. Several crucial issues that are prerequisites for participation as an experimental subject will be explored.

The Special Problem of Informed Consent in Prison  Informed consent for a research subject requires that the experimental subject have and understand the information about the experiment, understand if a risk exists, and be in a position to evaluate what is an acceptable degree of risk. Information about the experiment can be provided by the researcher, but a judgment about an acceptable degree of risk requires contact