These Unethical Prison Experiments Used Mosquitoes And Pesticides On Incarcerated Men

sign to a california medical facility
Zain Murdock
January 29, 2023

In the 1960s, Dr. William Epstein and Dr. Howard Maibach began a new project at a California prison hospital. They swarmed incarcerated men with mosquitoes for observation. They injected pesticides into their veins. And they didn’t stop until 1977. 

But decades later, the University of California, San Francisco offered an apology on their faculty members’ behalf.

At least 2,600 incarcerated men volunteered for the study for $30 a month. But is it voluntary when $30 a month was considered high pay for a group of people without freedom?

Some of the men had mental illnesses, and many had no documentation of informed consent at all. The university noted that their practices were “questionable.” How much exploitation, deception, and harm is still under wraps, inside and outside of prisons?

The school also claims it was nothing racial. But Maibach and Epstein were trained by a Philadelphia dermatologist whose research subjects were often incarcerated Black men. 

Maibach’s own publications also promoted the idea that race is biological, a racist philosophy that has historically led to eugenics and excused slavery. As of December 2022, he still works at the university.

If we want to stop this country from risking the health of incarcerated Black people, that means multiple things: not just abolishing prisons but overhauling every institution and system that’s anti-Black, including the medical system.

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