CA Releases 5-Year Study of Reproductive Health Care for Women in NYS Prisons

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Today, the Women in Prison Project at the Correctional Association of New York (CA), the state’s oldest RJ Report Cover JPEGcriminal justice reform organization, released a major report entitled, “Reproductive Injustice: The State of Reproductive Health Care for Women in New York State Prisons,” the most extensive study of reproductive health care in a state prison system to date, and one of the most in-depth studies of conditions for women in prison in the country.
Based over a five-year period on interviews with 950 incarcerated women, 20 visits to prisons housing women in New York, data from over 1,550 surveys, and reviews of medical charts, the report reveals a shockingly poor standard of care, the routine denial of basic reproductive health and hygiene items, and the continued egregious practice of shackling pregnant women during labor and childbirth despite a 2011 law prohibiting it.

Highlights of the report’s key findings about reproductive health care in DOCCS include:

1) Women are routinely shackled during pregnancy and some still experience the horror of being shackled during childbirth, even though this practice was outlawed in NY in 2009.

2) Pregnant women face poor conditions of confinement, including insufficient food and damaging childbirth experiences.

3) Many women receive substandard reproductive health care and face serious delays in accessing GYN services.

4) Women are routinely denied basic reproductive health items, including contraception and sufficient sanitary supplies.

5) Women in solitary confinement face egregious conditions, and pregnant women can be placed in solitary, a dangerous setting for them and their babies.

“Reproductive health care for women in New York’s prisons is shockingly substandard,” said Tamar Kraft-Stolar, Director of the CA’s Women in Prison Project and author of the report.  “Women are often denied adequate care and pregnant women are routinely shackled, even during childbirth.  By adopting the recommendations in this report, policymakers can help protect the health and human rights of thousands of women in our state.”
“When I started to feel the contractions, I was cuffed.  I even had to push holding on to the metal of the bed because I was shackled to it, and they made me hold my baby with one hand because the other hand was still cuffed,” said Maria Caraballo, who was illegally shackled to the hospital bed during labor and right after she gave birth while in state prison custody. “The whole experience was traumatizing and made me feel less than human.  I am hopeful that people will read this report, listen to the voices of the women in it, and take action to make sure no one else goes through what we did.”

This report is the latest in ongoing efforts by the Women in Prison Project, in partnership with the Coalition for Women Prisoners, to address myriad issues facing incarcerated women.

You can read the Executive Summary of the report here.

The full report is available here.

Learn more about the Campaign to End Reproductive Injustice.