Prisoners as Guinea Pigs

Overtime, the character of the experiments changed. The Department of Energy's Advistory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments reported widespread testing on prisoners in their Final Report, and wrote that "It is difficult to overemphasize just how common the practice became in the United States during the postwar years. Researchers employed prisoners as subjects in a multitude of experiments that ranged in purpose from a desire to understand the cause of cancer to a need to test the effects of a new cosmetic."

Well known among these experiments were the experiments by Dr. Carl Heller at the Oregon State Penitentiary between 1963 and 1973, where inmates were exposed to radiation in order to measure its effects on the body. While the inmates signed consent forms which explained some of the possible effects of the radiation, it is unclear to what extent they truly consented to be Dr. Heller's subjects.

Oregon State Penitentiary

Oregon State Penitentiary

Experiments were also conducted at the Holmesburg State Prison in Philadelphia. The experiments, which included testing radioactive isotopes, LSD, BZ (a hallucinogenic incapacitating agent now used by the military as an aerosolized toxin), infectious diseases, and a variety of products for drug companies, were conducted in the now-closed county prison beginning in 1951 and lasting until 1974.
Holmesburg Prison

The Holmesburg State Prison complex