Jails have operated as a fundamental component of the local criminal justice system in this country since its establishment; yet, little is known and understood about how they operate and what works in these settings. The good news is that this shortfall serves as an excellent opportunity for researchers to fill the void and provide useful information and insight to jail practitioners. Researchers who desire access to local jails in order to successfully conduct studies need to know how to conduct research in these unique and challenging environments.
Although excellent guidelines for conducting research in prisons exist,1 the topic of research in jails has not received similar attention. The purpose of this document is to provide guidelines for researchers who seek to conduct studies in local jails. The goal is to assist successful study design and implementation, which inform research that will strengthen the discipline and practice of jail-based corrections. It provides basic information about jail operation and legal constraints that can affect study designs. This document provides aspiring researchers some basic guidelines for proposing the use of randomized controlled trials with inmates in local jails that could lead to viable and useful research.