Loyola University Chicago

Institutional Review Board

Research with Prisoners

Prisoners are considered a vulnerable population, thus an IRB must review very cautiously research proposals involving prisoners. It is most often thought that the term “prisoner” simply means someone who has been sentenced to a penal institution under criminal or civil statue. However, Federal Regulations make it very clear that the term encompasses individuals detained in other facilities by virtue of statutes or alternative commitment procedures which provide alternatives to criminal prosecution or incarceration in a penal institution, and individuals detained pending arraignment, trial, or sentencing.

In order to review research proposals involving prisoners, an IRB must have at least one member who can serve in a capacity to represent the prisoner population and can act as an advocate on their behalf. Loyola’s IRB does have a “prisoner advocate” who satisfies this requirement, and who is called upon whenever prisoners are involved in research.

Investigators who plan on including prisoners in research studies are encouraged to consult Federal regulations for a list of categories of permissible research involving prisoners. Investigators must submit their proposals to the IRB well in advance of the anticipated start date, as it is not possible for the IRB to review a research proposal involving prisoners via an expedited review procedure unless the IRB Chairperson determines that the research is classified as minimal risk and eligible for expedited review by meeting the requirements established in 45 CFR 46.110. Such proposals require full review, unless the IRB Chairperson determines Expedited Review is appropriate, and will take more time than is normally required (see section on Review Mechanisms). Furthermore, investigators will need to secure IRB or administrative approval from the penal institution and/or State Department of Corrections. Investigators are encouraged to consult the Assistant Director for Research Compliance at (773) 508-2689 for more information.

IRB Main Page