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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Surge of Incarceration Rates for Women Requires Reform of Healthcare System


As the number of incarcerated women in the United States increases, it is important to address the persistent lack of care for women’s health. Research is only beginning to be done on how the health needs of incarcerated women are equal or even greater than that of non-incarcerated women. In and out of prisons, proper reproductive care is a basic, undeniable human right to have. In this literature review, we aim to raise awareness about the current state of reproductive care in prison settings. Comprehensive reproductive care includes access to sexual health supplies, menstrual products, prenatal care, and OB-GYN appointments, which are currently almost absent or dismally deficient in prisons. When considering the population of incarcerated women, it is important to keep in mind the systemic inequalities that have already made women of these socioeconomic backgrounds more susceptible to harm due to an inability to access health insurance and higher risks for infectious diseases. Preventative medical care such as STI testing and quality menstruation products, in addition to prenatal care for expecting mothers, is severely lacking. The experiences of transgender women reveal inadequacies in structural policies and consideration for mental health. In order to reform our prison systems to become more rehabilitative, we propose implementing structural interventions that account for a comprehensive reproductive healthcare system within prisons. This includes the enforcement of stricter accreditation for physicians working in prisons, utilization of telehealth, and comprehensive sexual and reproductive care protocol.

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