Human Subject Research Review Process





The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction welcomes those interested in conducting research in our Department. Researchers who want to use the ODRC offender population or correctional staff in their research must first obtain approval from the Department's Human Subjects Research Review Committee (which is similar in function to the Institutional Review Board (IRB) of most universities).

The following documents are needed to review the proposed research: 1) a completed APPLICATION FOR REVIEW OF RESEARCH PROPOSAL; 2) a completed RESEARCH PROPOSAL APPROVAL form; and 3) a letter indicating university IRB approval of the research (for university-affiliated requests). The Department's Human Subjects Research Review Committee will meet and review the proposal (the committee meets monthly). See below for a detailed description of the review process. Generally, the committee will address the following questions in the review of the Application for Review of Research Proposal:

  • Does the proposed research have a "clear and reasonable nexus" to an offender population? For example, persons studying sleep problems, shampoos, or TV viewing habits do not need to study offenders to answer the questions of the research. Non-offender groups can be used. Persons who wish to study how burglars case houses could reasonably use an offender population.
  • Does the researcher provide appropriate safeguards for the research subjects?
  • Does the project adequately address valuable topics, either to the Department or to the general knowledge of the field of criminal justice? The potential benefits of the proposed research will be considered, as well as the cost of the research to the ODRC.

Detailed Description

Overview of the Purpose of the Human Subjects Research Review Process 



The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction encourages research conducted by researchers outside of the ODRC, as well as those employed by the ODRC, who wish to conduct research for non-Departmental purposes (e.g., for individual academic or professional purposes). The ODRC established the Human Subjects Research Review Committee (HSRRC) to ensure that research involving inmates, community-supervised offenders, or staff meets professional and scientific standards and complies with state and federal research guidelines. The Human Subjects Research Review process also ensures that the proposed research is feasible and does not present undue burden to the institutions. To maximize the use of Departmental resources, the potential benefits of the research to the Department or the field of academic study is considered in the review process, along with the costs of the research to the Department.



Criteria for Review

The HSRRC meets regularly to review proposals using the criteria described under the general categories listed below.

Research Topic

  1. Offenders under the jurisdiction of the ODRC should not be used as a population of convenience. The researcher must explain why the research questions require the study of offenders rather than the general population. The one exception to this rule occurs when the inmate/offender was a human subject for the research project prior to placement under ODRC supervision; in these cases, no nexus for using an offender population is required.
  2. Research on inmates that is medical, pharmaceutical, and/or cosmetic is prohibited, unless all of the following conditions are true: 1) there is a clear benefit to the individual inmate based on his/her need for a specific medical procedure or pharmaceutical that is not generally available, and 2) the inmate suffers from a medical condition for which all conventional treatment modalities and alternatives have been exhausted, and 3) the only remaining treatment is the one being proposed as part of the medical or pharmaceutical experiment, and 4) the treatment will have an immediate therapeutic benefit to the participant. If these conditions are met, the ODRC may authorize participation as a treatment opportunity, rather than as participation in an experimental project. All such research must be performed in compliance with all state and federal guidelines.

Human Subjects Protections

  1. The risk posed by the research must be minimal or non-existent.
  2. Because inmates are generally not free to obtain income from other sources, payment of any kind to inmates, their relatives or friends represents a form of coercion, and is not permitted. Payment to community offenders may be allowed.
  3. Offender or staff participation must be voluntary and informed re: risk of harm, possible benefits, and other details. A consent form must be used when the subjects will be identified and this identity will be linked to the research data or when the risks of participation are more than minimal. Consent forms are not needed when the data used are anonymous and there is minimal risk of harm. However, the Committee may require the submission of a "script" that will be presented to the subjects prior to conducting the research, and/or you may be asked to provide subjects with a written statement regarding the research.
  4. All proposals must address steps taken to ensure the privacy and confidentiality of the data pertaining to research subjects. The HSRRC will review the proposal to ensure that the project will not directly or inadvertently result in the disclosure of private information. If there is a possibility that private offender information might be revealed, the proposal must be revised to meet the Department's privacy and confidentiality standards before the project can be approved.
  5. Following the approval, a member of the HSRRC may be designated to work with the researcher to review confidentiality practices. A proven violation of the Department's confidentiality standards will result in a temporary or permanent suspension of the project.

Cost/Benefit Calculation

  1. The cost of the project to the Department (whether in staff time required to pull files for review, escort inmates, provide security for research personnel, etc., or in other areas such as computer support) will be considered in the decision to approve or disapprove the research application. In addition, the potential benefits to the Department or the field of criminal justice will be factored into the decision to approve or disapprove. The researcher must agree to cooperate with the Department's administrative needs, including modification, if necessary, of the project to meet the needs of the setting (prison, field office, central office) in which the research will be conducted and to present a copy of the final project report to the Department before any public release.

Researcher Information

  1. Project personnel are expected to have study-specific qualifications; that is, there is a presumption that project personnel have the substantive and methodological knowledge to successfully complete the proposed study. The Human Subjects Research Review Committee can examine research qualifications with respect to education, experience, credentials, licensure and resources. If necessary, the Committee may ask for verification of credentials.
  2. Please note that ODRC policy 06-RES-02 prohibits research to be conducted on inmates, community supervised offenders, or staff by inmates or offenders under the supervision of the ODRC.
  3. The signature of the research advisor will be required on the "Research Proposal Approval" form if the research is part of an educational requirement.
  4. Projects by individuals with academic affiliation must be approved by the school's IRB prior to obtaining final HSRRC approval.

Structure of the Process

The ODRC Human Subjects Research Review Process involves a three-tiered review. First, the Human Subjects Research Review Committee reviews the "Application" for Review of Research Proposal" using the "Criteria" for Review" cited above. Secondly, if the Committee approves the proposal application, it is forwarded to the Deputy Director of the Office of Policy and Offender Reentry (OPOR) for final ODRC Central Office review. Finally, if the Deputy Director of OPOR approves the proposal, it is forwarded to the appropriate Warden (or parole Regional Administrator) for review regarding the feasibility of conducting the research in their administrative area. The managing officer will make a determination of the feasibility of conducting the approved research in the designated facility or field office, and ensure that the research conforms to the policies of the parent agency. If the managing officer approves the proposal, then the research may proceed. For proposed research that will be conducted in a large number of institutions / APA regions, the documents pertaining to an approved project will be sent to the Deputy Director of the Office of Prisons / Deputy Director of the Division Of Parole And Community Services (rather than the Wardens or Regional Administrators).

Final Report

The researcher is required to provide the department with a copy of the final project report through the HSRRC. If the researcher intends to publish or publicly present the results of the research, the researcher must send a copy of the proposed article or paper to the Chair of the HSRRC prior to publication or presentation.



Documents for review should be sent to:



Kathleen Lamb, Chair
Human Subjects Research Review Committee
Department of Rehabilitation and Correction
4545 Fisher Road, Suite D
Columbus, Ohio 43223
Fax: (614) 728-1033


Questions regarding the Human Subjects Research Review process can be addressed by Kathleen Lamb at:
Phone: 614-995-5035