Sentenced to Science: One Black Man's Story of Imprisonment in America (2007).

Author:McGinn, Michelle K.
Position::Book review

Sentenced to Science: One Black Man's Story of Imprisonment in America (2007)

Allen M. Hornblum

Foreword by Harriet A. Washington

Penn State Press, 232 pp.

Prisons are filled with people who have made bad choices in life that have exposed them to tremendous risks and sometimes life-threatening or debilitating injuries. In Sentenced to Science, Alien Hornblum documents the life of Yusef Abdul Saliquu. As a younger man, then known as Edward or Butch Anthony, Yusef was involved with drugs and crimes to support his addiction; he did not always fulfill his family obligations as father, husband, son, or brother. While he takes full responsibility for those decisions and has changed those life patterns, this book focuses upon another set of decisions that had an even more devastating effect on his life: Yusef agreed to participate in research studies while he was incarcerated at Holmesburg Prison in Philadelphia. This book describes the circumstances and the consequences of his decisions to participate in research, and it is for these reasons that research administrators will want to hear his story.

The story line for this book is familiar. Many reports have been published documenting the ways that the most vulnerable in society--those compromised by the interrelated effects of poverty, racism, literacy challenges, mental illness, health issues, and substance use--have been violated in the name of scientific research (Jones, 1981; Washington, 2006). Thousands of stories could be told about men and women who have been subjected to such abuse. Following the atrocities of World War II, most nations curtailed or eliminated clinical research studies in prisons, but this was not the case in the US. Holmesburg Prison, for example, was the site of an extremely active research program for the University of Pennsylvania from the 1950s through the 1970s under the leadership of Albert Kligman, a professor of dermatology. During those years, an astonishing 75 % of the prisoners housed at Holmesburg participated in one or more research studies investigating detergents, deodorants, analgesics, antidepressants, diet pills, hormones, psychoactive drugs, chemical warfare agents, radioactive isotopes, and a host of other topics. The studies were variously sponsored by pharmaceutical or cosmetic companies, or the US army. Kligman and the University of Pennsylvania are reputed to have earned millions of dollars from these research studies, as well as the recognition associated with...

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