Dr. Erin Kitt-Lewis from Penn State University presented insights into accessing correctional facilities for research at the 32nd Annual Scientific Sessions virtual conference of the Eastern Nursing Research Society on March 26-27, 2020. Klein Buendel Senior Scientist, Dr. Valerie Myers, was a co-author on the presentation.
Despite the imperative to engage in research in corrections, researchers face many challenges due to the restrictive nature of this setting. Dr. Kitt-Lewis shared many of the lessons learned by this collaborative research team as they worked to secure diverse prison and jail settings to research, develop, and test the Enhancing Care for the Aged and Dying in Prison program.
Lessons learned included the discovery of contextually-specific constraints such as the closing or consolidating of services or facilities, managing staffing constraints, relocating staff, ascertaining and adhering to policies and administrative directives, and working within the guidelines of the review board of the correctional system.
Establishing and maintaining relationships with key stakeholders in corrections were also important aspects of this research. In her presentation, Dr. Kitt-Lewis discussed developing networking opportunities such as connecting via social media like LinkedIn, attending corrections conferences, and discussing potential research opportunities to help build relationships with key stakeholders and decision-makers. Additional perceptions from the field included identifying potential barriers or constraints to accessing correctional sites, and sustaining relationships post-research via ongoing communication such as sharing periodic updates, final reports, and publications with partners.
The correctional system has often been called a “closed” system due to the difficulty faced by researchers in attempting to access and conduct research. However, establishing well-defined strategies to conduct research in the system appears to create efficiency and promote much needed health-related research in the correction setting. Research outcomes that are contextually-specific can support and foster equitable care for people who are incarcerated.
This research was funded by a Small Business Technology Transfer grant to Klein Buendel from the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health (AG049570; Dr. Susan Loeb and Dr. Valerie Myers, Multiple Principal Investigators). Collaborators on the work presented, in addition to Dr. Erin Kitt-Lewis, include Dr. Susan Loeb and Kaléi Kowalchik from Penn State University; Dr. Rachel Wion from Indiana University School of Nursing; Julie Murphy from King College Nursing Program; and Dr. Valerie Myers and Tiffany Jerrod from Klein Buendel.