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BACKGROUND: Little is known about global practices regarding the provision of reimbursement for the participation of people who are incarcerated in research. To determine current practices related to the reimbursement of incarcerated populations for research, we aimed to describe international variations in practice across countries and carceral environments to help inform the development of more consistent and equitable practices. METHODS: We conducted a scoping review by searching PubMed, Cochrane library, Medline, and Embase, and conducted a grey literature search for English- and French-language articles published until September 30, 2022. All studies evaluating any carceral-based research were included if recruitment of incarcerated participants occurred inside any non-juvenile carceral setting; we excluded studies if recruitment occurred exclusively following release. Where studies failed to indicate the presence or absence of reimbursement, we assumed none was provided. RESULTS: A total of 4,328 unique articles were identified, 2,765 were eligible for full text review, and 426 were included. Of these, 295 (69%) did not offer reimbursement to incarcerated individuals. A minority (n = 13; 4%) included reasons explaining the absence of reimbursement, primarily government-level policies (n = 7). Among the 131 (31%) studies that provided reimbursement, the most common form was monetary compensation (n = 122; 93%); five studies (4%) offered possible reduced sentencing. Reimbursement ranged between $3-610 USD in total and 14 studies (11%) explained the reason behind the reimbursements, primarily researchers' discretion (n = 9). CONCLUSIONS: The majority of research conducted to date in carceral settings globally has not reimbursed incarcerated participants. Increased transparency regarding reimbursement (or lack thereof) is needed as part of all carceral research and advocacy efforts are required to change policies prohibiting reimbursement of incarcerated individuals. Future work is needed to co-create international standards for the equitable reimbursement of incarcerated populations in research, incorporating the voices of people with lived and living experience of incarceration.

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Drug Policy

Publication Date





Carceral settings, Compensation, Participation, People in prison, Reimbursement, Research, Humans, Prisoners, Patient Participation, Reward