Prison Through the Lens of Gender

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Do women in prison receive adequate medical and gynecological care?

Do pregnant women in prison get proper nutrition in their diets?

What could improve interactions between correction officers and incarcerated women?

To answer these and many other questions, the CA’s Women in Prison Project (WIPP) has recently intensified its monitoring of the seven New York prisons that house women. As part of its effort to be more rigorous in its visiting work, the Project has hired a researcher to help hone its visiting methodology and create new survey tools (building on the tools previously developed by the Prison Visiting Project to monitor men’s facilities) that recognize incarcerated women’s needs and circumstances.

Before using the survey tools, WIPP conducted two focus groups with formerly incarcer- ated women to ensure that the survey’s questions were comprehensive, clear, and sensitive to women’s specific experiences. WIPP has already used these new survey tools during recent visits to Bedford Hills and Albion Correctional Facilities (the former, New York’s only maximum security prison for women, located in Westchester, and the latter, a medium security facility near Rochester), and also plans to use them during upcoming visits to Taconic, Bay- view and Beacon Correctional Facilities.

After each visit, the Project sends a de- tailed letter to the facility superintendent explaining its findings, observations and recommendations for change. The Project then creates a report which is posted on the CA website and distributed to key legislators, advocates, and members of the Coalition for Women Prisoners, which the Project coordinates.

At the end of its visiting cycle, WIPP plans to use the information it has gathered to publish a State of the Women’s Prisons report, which will analyze conditions in women’s prisons across the state and make recommendations for system- wide improvements. The Project will also continue to build its ongoing advocacy for improved conditions of confinement at all the prisons it visits.

Like the Project’s prison monitoring and advocacy efforts, the State of the Women’s Prisons report will be the first of its kind in the state and the country, making WIPP an even stronger voice for incarcerated women and their families.

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