Health Issues among Incarcerated Women

By Ronald L. Braithwaite; Kimberly Jacob Arriola et al. | Go to book overview

11
Reproductive Health among
Incarcerated Women

JOHN CLARK

There is no doubt that the rapid rise in the numbers of individuals incarcerated in the United States over the past several years has been a challenge to all correctional professionals in every facet of the correctional industry. Given the magnitude of the increasing numbers coupled with the fact that health care issues for female prisoners have traditionally been an afterthought of male-oriented correctional officials, there is no wonder that female offenders have and are receiving health care services that fail to adequately address the totality of reproductive health. In fact, it is only in recent years that the issue of prenatal care has been perceived as a high priority and provided as an essential service for the pregnant inmate. And, as the provision of prenatal health services becomes more accessible, basic reproductive health services for incarcerated women aged fourteen through forty-four need to be reorganized and provided in such a fashion that they also can be delivered cost effectively and efficiently.

In order to accomplish this task, it is vital to draw upon the experiences and efforts of providers of prenatal and reproductive health services in the free community. In this regard, there are two highly recommended offerings to be used as basic references for those who are developing, reviewing, and revising reproductive health services. They are the guidelines published by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology for prenatal care and for women's health care services (ACOG 2002a and b).

Next, it is crucial to understand and accept the principle that jails and prisons are uniquely different and at the same time very similar. It is important to be knowledgeable about the operational characteristics and the clinical morbidity and mortality in both types of institutions. As delivery systems for any type of health care service are developed, there are many policies, procedures, protocols, and forms available for use specific to this environment so it is not necessary to reinvent the wheel. However, because each system/agency has some unique

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