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External Research – Executive Administrative Services

In response to the recent developments associated with the spread of COVID-19, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has suspended non-essential access to any of our facilities, which includes visits for the purpose of collecting data for research projects. While we understand the value of research, we also understand the importance of providing and maintaining a safe and healthy environment for all involved. We will continue to accept and process applications for future research.

For continued updates, please refer to our agency website, or feel free to contact us.

Research Project Definition

What constitutes a research project?

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

Applying to Conduct Research

How do I apply to conduct research in TDCJ?

The research applicant must submit the following documents to the Research and Development Department:

  • Research Application (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) (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 - 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. IRBs must review projects annually. Most universities, hospitals, and government agencies have an IRB. 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 IRB at your organization for specific requirements.

Where do I send my completed application and attendant documents?

Texas Department of Criminal Justice
Research and Development Department
Andrew Barbee
PO Box 13084 – Capitol Station
Austin, Texas 78711-3084
Phone: (512) 463–7803
Fax: (936) 936–2169

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

No, but Research and Development does require the following prior to approval:

  • Research Application for the principal investigator and each secondary researcher
  • A brief summary of the protocol and research proposal
  • A copy of the informed consent
  • A copy of the Institutional Review Board (IRB) 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 the 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 the 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 Research and Development.

Researcher Responsibilities

Inmate Enrollment

You are required to provide the TDCJ with the names of inmates enrolled in research studies along with copies of the informed consent signed by each inmate 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 IRB approval expiration date, the principal investigator is required to submit to Research and Development 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 Research and Development obtains an updated IRB approval.

Progress Reports

After a research project is approved, the initial Progress Report is due three months after the project start date, and a subsequent progress report is due every six 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 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 Research and Development 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 Research and Development 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, Research and Development must receive the final version approved by the researcher's IRB. Submitting the final version in a timely manner will result in a quicker application review process.

How can I gain access to inmates 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 Research and Development will determine whether 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 the research project is well-planned and logistically feasible; will benefit the TDCJ; meets federal guidelines for the protection of human subjects; and will have no adverse effects on existing correctional operations.

Can an inmate 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 inmates and staff of the 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 license or government-issued photo ID.

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

The TDCJ Correctional Institutions Division director, in consultation with the specific unit warden, will approve equipment used 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
Research and Development Department
Andrew Barbee
PO Box 13084 – Capitol Station
Austin, Texas 78711-3084
Phone: (512) 463–7803
Fax: (936) 936–2169