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Regions vary in paying prisoners to participate in research
Date:8/17/2012

TORONTO, Aug. 17, 2012--When members of the public participate in research studies, they are often given incentives such as cash or gift cards for food as compensation or reimbursement for their time and effort. Not so for Canada's prison population. A new analysis shows that there is inconsistency in how and when incentives are used for research participants under criminal justice supervision.

Of the provinces, territories and federal government, only two jurisdictions have written policy around the use of research incentives, according to a national study led by Dr. Flora I. Matheson, a research scientist at St. Michael's Hospital's Centre for Research on Inner City Health. Other jurisdictions have unwritten practices - some departments prohibit the use of incentives, while others allow incentives on a case-by-case basis.

The findings, published in the August issue of the American Journal of Public Health, highlight the need to look at the issue of research incentives for prisoners openly.

"As researchers, we always offer something as a way of thanking the participants for opening up to us and for contributing their time," said Dr. Matheson, a medical sociologist.

"The prison population, including those on probation or parole, is a physically and geographically confined population, which makes recruitment for research studies relatively easy. This is one reason why researchers often seek them out for study. But, why do we treat them differently from other research participants? Some people would consider this discriminatory. At the very least, we should be having a discussion about why there is a lack of policy for this vulnerable population."

Prison populations have particularly high rates of mental illness and substance abuse problems factors that may influence their ability to provide consent. They are also more economically disadvantaged in which case, monetary incentives may act as undue influence fo
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Contact: Leslie Shepherd
shepherdl@smh.ca
416-864-6094
St. Michael's Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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