Before reading, if you are unaware of how the U.S. Prison System works (as we were), click here.
As for trends in the U.S. Correction System – click here.
Now, when us ovaries started looking at this topic, we wanted to have a better grasp on how many women are locked up in the United States and where they are held, to which we found these two graphs:
The numbers are astonishing as “avoiding pre-trial incarceration is uniquely challenging for women”. How so you may ask – well, there is no clear concise answer but it could be because incarcerated women have lower incomes than men and have a harder time affording cash bail.
But what does this mean?
Well for one, jails make it harder to stay in touch with family than prisons do. Which is a problem as:
Not only are 80% of the women in jail are mothers, but more than 150,000 women are also pregnant when they are admitted into the system.
Notwithstanding, health care for women in prison is deplorable as:
- States still allow female inmates, including impregnated inmates to be shackled (even during childbirth)
- Gynecological exams are not performed upon admission nor on an annual basis
- Many lack prenatal care: many tend to have complicated and high-risk pregnancies
- Not all prisons offer opiate substitution therapy
- There is a lack of attention to mental health issues
- Women are separated from their child which causes psychological harm to both the mother and child alike
Women are even legally sterilized in prisons.
The fact that the U.S. correctional system silences the needs of women, shows that the system was designed for men.
To be frank, it is disconcerting that there are no set standards regarding health services that every prison and jail across the nation that has to follow. Meaning, every prison, and every jail have its own rules regarding women and childbirth in general.
Which leads me to discuss how African American women, members of the LGBTQIQAP+ community, Native American women, Latinx women, and differently-abled women are further marginalized.
AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN
- During their lifetimes, African American women are more likely than any other race of women to go to prison
- Incarceration rates of women double those of white women with “109 out of every 100,000 African American women in the United States were sentenced to state or federal prison”
- “Women of color are more likely to be incarcerated for drug offenses”
- “African American and American Indian female juveniles were placed in residential detention facilities at rates – 1.7 and more than 4 times, respectively – higher than their white counterparts”
Take a listen to Topeka K. Sam, who was herself incarcerated for some time discussing her experiences of seeing the disparity of women of color in the prison system.
- “More than 200,000 youth and adults are sexually abused in prisons, jails, and juvenile detention facilities each year”
- “Transwomen in men’s prisons were 13 times as likely to be sexually abused as other prisoners“
- Facilities still house transgender individuals based on their biological anatomy instead of what they identify as – “denying them access to gender-appropriate clothing,” punishing them for trying to express their gender identity
- LGBTQIQAP+ individuals are more likely to experience solitary confinement
Native American Women
- “Native Americans are incarcerated at a rate 38% higher than the national average”
- “Federally operated health care facilities are more likely to force Native American women to see another health care provider or even be dismissed”
- “American Indian women face the highest rates of rape in the nation”
- “Native American girls have the highest rates of incarceration of any ethnic group and they are almost five times more likely to be confined to juvenile detention”
- “Latinx girls are 38% more likely to be imprisoned than white girls”
- “In state prisons and jails, Hispanic females are incarcerated at almost twice the rate of white females (117 persons to 63 persons per 100,000 population)”
- “Hispanics experience rates of housing hardship that are twice as high as that of whites”
- “Alabama is one of several states that don’t track the number of Hispanics in state prisons, often classifying them as white instead”
- “As many as 26% of state prisoners report possessing a mobility, hearing, or visual disability”
- “Prisoners with physical disabilities are often denied the services they are entitled to under the law”
- “Prisoners with physical disabilities are at constant risk for placement in solitary confinement and attendant abuse”
- “According to ACLU, prisoners are placed in solitary confinement for logistical reasons – so when there are no available beds, prison officials place prisoners with physical disabilities in solitary confinement as a solution to overcrowding”
These are only some factual disparities us ovaries were able to find about health care and the disparities amongst communities in the prison system, but nevertheless, they are mind-blowing and something that we were not aware of.
Sure we can feel sorry for them but…..
What can you do?
Support the reproductive rights of Pregnant Inmates and of women in general
- You can do so by researching organizations that help, like (ACLU)
- See if your communities hold “national prison doula training events” which allows individuals to get a hands-on experiencing working with pregnant inmates
2. Help wrongfully convicted women receive proper legal assistance
3. Donate Books or hold a Book Drive
- Look for organizations like The Women’s Prison Book Project which works with female inmates to deliver book requests
These are only three of countless ways YOU can help but if you want to know of others ways click here.
Anyways, it has been a great semester, good luck on finals everyone.
The ovaries have spoken for the last time.