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External Research – Executive Administrative Services

Research Project Definition

What constitutes a boldresearch project?

A research project is any study that requires access to human subjects (such as interviews with staff or offenders) or certain types of offender data, and all medical research. Aggregate statistical information can be located on the TDCJ Website.

The Ombudsman Coordinator's Office handles information on a specific offender's status.

Applying to Conduct Research

How do I apply to conduct research in TDCJ?

The research applicant must submit the following documents to the Executive Services:

  • Research Application – MS Excel
  • Legible photocopy of front of driver license or government–issued photo ID for Principal Investigator and secondary researcher(s)
  • Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval Letter (stating conditions, if any)
  • Proposal (elements listed in Guidelines for Writing a Proposal) – PDF
  • Research Instrument/Questionnaire (if applicable)
  • Consent Form written at a 6th grade reading level (if applicable)
  • Résumé/Curriculum Vitae
  • Medical Director Approval Letter (if conducted at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center)
  • Data Request Form (if applicable) – MS Word

What are the elements of a research proposal?

Please see the Guidelines for Writing a Proposal for more information on what to submit.

What documents does the Secondary Researcher have to submit?

  • Research Application – MS Excel
  • Legible photocopy of front of driver license or government–issued photo ID

What is an Institutional Review Board (IRB)?

An Institutional Review Board (IRB) is a specially constituted review body established or designated by an entity to protect the welfare of human subjects recruited to participate in all research. Institutional Review Boards must review projects annually. Most universities, hospitals, and government agencies have an Institutional Review Board. Federal law requires that a prisoner advocate serve on the board for research involving prisoners. Expedited review boards for initial approval are not acceptable.

For more information, please see the website for the Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP).

What elements are required on a consent form?

Consent forms will differ depending on the specific project, but the Office for Human Research Protections has detailed guidelines for what to include on an informed consent form. Please consult the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at your organization for specific requirements.

Where do I send my completed application and attendant documents?

Texas Department of Criminal Justice
Executive Services
Karen Hall
PO Box 99
Huntsville, TX 77342–0099
Phone: (936) 437–6452
Fax: (936) 437–2125

If I am part of a national longitudinal study that includes an offender within the TDCJ, do I have to go through the full review and approval process?

No, but the Executive Services does require the following prior to approval:

  • Research Application for the Principal Investigator and each Secondar Researcher
  • A brief summary of the protocol and research proposal
  • A copy of the informed consent
  • A copy of the Institutional Review Board approval letter
  • A copy of the research Instrument and questionnaire (if applicable)

Review and Approval Process

What is the review process for research proposals?

The review process usually takes between 60 and 90 days, depending on the specific project. Reviews include a criminal background investigation by the Office of the Inspector General, a Division Review by the appropriate division(s), a legal review by the Office of General Counsel, and final approval by the appropriate Division Director.

Why must I be subjected to a background check?

Background checks are for security purposes, and all Principal Investigators and Secondary Researchers must meet the criminal history criteria TDCJ uses when hiring individuals for employment.

How do I know if my research proposal is approved?

After the review process is complete, the Principal Investigator will be notified in writing of the status of his or her project. Questions may be directed to the Executive Services Department / Research Coordination.

Researcher Responsibilities

Offender Enrollment

You are required to provide TDCJ with the names of offenders enrolled in research studies along with copies of the informed consent signed by each offender participant. If the Principal Investigator seeks approval from his or her IRB to modify the consent form, copies of the approved modified form and the letter of approval from the IRB must be forwarded to the Research Coordinator at the address below.

Institutional Review Board (IRB) Renewal

If a research project will continue beyond the Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval expiration date, the Principal Investigator is required to submit to Executive Services a copy of the IRB's renewal approval letter. Research projects without currently active IRB approvals cannot proceed within the TDCJ. The Principal Investigator and all Secondary Researchers will be required to cease any data collection or analysis until Executive Services obtains an updated IRB approval.

Progress Reports

After a research project is approved, the initial Progress Report is due three (3) months after the project start date, and a subsequent Progress Report is due every six (6) months thereafter. Failure to comply with requirements may result in termination of current project and non-approval of future research requests.

Final Report

The Principal Investigator is required to submit two (2) paper or electronic copies of any written report resulting from an approved research study. If the written report is published, the Principal Investigator is required to send Executive Services a copy of the cover of the publication and a copy of the published version of the article.

Projects Continuing Beyond the Anticipated Completion Date

The full approval process is not required annually if the project continues beyond the estimated date for completion listed on the Research Application. However, the Principal Investigator is required to submit a written request to Executive Services for an extension. The request should include the reason for an extension and a timeline for the remaining steps until project completion.

All Principal Investigators and Secondary Researchers will be subject to an annual criminal history check for the duration of the research project. As noted above, IRB approval is required every year, regardless of the anticipated completion date.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to have my survey or questionnaire finalized before submitting my application?

Before a research project can be approved, Executive Services must receive the final version approved by the researcher's Institutional Review Board. Submitting the final version in a timely manner will result in a quicker application review process.

How can I gain access to offenders for research purposes?

The research applicant must have an approved application and sign the Accessing Premises: Compliance with Agency Policies and Procedures document. Additionally, the research applicant is subject to a criminal history check. If the researcher has a criminal conviction, the Correctional Institutions Division Director and the Executive Services Research Coordinator will determine whether or not to grant access.

What is the role of the Division Review in the application review process?

Every application is reviewed by a group of subject matter experts in the areas potentially affected by the research project. Each application is reviewed to determine whether or not the research project is well–planned and logistically feasible; will benefit TDCJ; meets federal guidelines for the protection of human subjects; and will have no adverse affects on existing correctional operations.

Can an offender or employee receive compensation for participating in a research study?

Neither compensation nor incentives are allowed for participating in a research project. This policy applies to both offenders and staff of TDCJ. The informed consent submitted by the Principal Investigator must include this stipulation.

If the Principal Investigator or Secondary Researcher changes, must I submit a new research application?

For the purpose of the criminal history check, a new Principal Investigator or Secondary Researcher must submit a Research Application and a legible photocopy of the front of his or her driver's license or government–issued photo ID.

Are there restrictions on what kind of equipment a researcher can take into a TDCJ Unit?

The Director of the TDCJ Correctional Institutions Division, in consultation with the specific Unit Warden, will approve equipment use on a case–by–case basis, depending on the researcher's needs and justification.


Contact Information

Whom do I contact to get more information about the research approval process?

Texas Department of Criminal Justice
Executive Services
Karen Hall
PO Box 99
Huntsville, TX 77342–0099
Phone: (936) 437–6452
Fax: (936) 437–2125