Prison research

Last updated on 26 Oct 2022

For this purpose, a prisoner or young offender means any person of the prison services of England and Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. Prisoners do not include patients detained under the Mental Health Act at special hospitals or other psychiatric secure units, or juvenile offenders detained in local authority secure accommodation.

Certain Research Ethics Committees (RECs) are flagged for research involving prisons and/or prisoners

HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS)

HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) is responsible for running prisons and probation services across England and Wales. All researchers wanting to conduct research with staff and/or offenders in prison establishments, the Probation Service regions or within HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) Headquarters are required to formally apply for research approval to the HMPPS National Research Committee (NRC). This includes research involving Contracted Prisons and Young Offenders’ Institutions (YOIs) and Secure Training Centres (STCs).

It excludes Secure Children’s Homes or with Youth Offending Teams – applications to conduct research in these excluded areas should be directed to the relevant establishments/teams and approval sought directly from these services (the Youth Justice Board does not provide approval for external research but requires that proposed research in Secure Children’s Homes or with Youth Offending Teams has been through a university or other ethics board for review and that any additional local or national approvals have been obtained).

Please refer to the HMPPS website for more information about the application process.

Health and Justice Research Network (HJRN) 

The Health and Justice Research Network (HJRN) publishes guidance on the various approvals and permissions required to conduct research involving prisoners in England and Wales and may be able to assist with specific queries.

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