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Tapping the “town and gown” potential for correctional health research collaborationsBackground: Collaborations between juvenile justice systems (town) and academia (gown) promise to significantly enhance what we understand about high rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) found among detained populations, particularly African American young women. However, research related to the sexual health of adolescent detainees has not occurred in proportion to the magnitude of issues found in the population. While there are many challenges to conducting research with this population, there are also lessons learned and best practices from other studies that may provide guidance. Methods: In 2015, we implemented a pilot project with young women in a detention center to understand the association between STIs and relationship dynamics. Using a formative assessment-based approach, the team periodically compared expectations to actual milestones and outcomes. This approach has provided feedback, guidance and lessons learned that we will use to adjust our pilot project. Results: Three challenges emerged from our review: concerns related to different agendas, bureaucratic difficulties and human protection. In addressing these challenges, we identified study procedures to revise and to incorporate into future works. Conclusions: Juvenile justice and academic partnerships require extensive pre-research work to account for the many challenges to implementing and conducting projects with this population. However, “town and gown” approaches to understanding and improving the sexual health of detainees can result in a more complete assessment of these issues compared to either a solely academic or juvenile justice investigation.