You’ve just been told that your all-male prison will be converted to a women’s prison next month. Will that make a difference? Are Women Inmates Special? You bet! Be prepared for some changes! Sure, women have lots of the same conditions as men and your chronic care clinics will still include diabetes, hypertension and cardiac disease. Of course, the obvious changes will be put in place: pelvic exams and mamographies will now be a routine part of health care delivery. But what else is in store?
Are Women Inmates Special?
The World Health Organization and the United Nations teamed up to publish a checklist to help European prisons focus on the special needs of women. The Action Guidance and Checklists document includes lists for decision makers, senior prison officials and prison health care staff. The recent publication of this document reminded me of the gender issues that are specific to the patient population we care for in correctional nursing.
Women make up only 10% of those incarcerated in the US and the numbers are increasing nearly twice as fast as men. One in every 100 black women are incarcerated as compared with 1 in 297 Hispanic and 1 in 355 white women. The typical incarcerated woman is in her early to mid thirties with a fragmented family history. Sixty percent have a history of physical or sexual abuse. There is significant history of substance abuse – in fact a high percentage are behind bars on drug charges.
Women inmates are greater users of health services than male inmates. In addition, working in a female facility requires more sensitivity and intuition – and definitely more patience. Significant substance abuse issues, poverty, and multiple psychosocial issues including mental illness, trauma & abuse can mean it is harder for female offenders to trust the healthcare team.
All of these gender-specific issues means a need for greater health care staffing – something not always considered when looking at male vs female inmate health care. What has your experience been in caring for female inmates? Do you agree that things are very different? Tell us your story……
If you like this post, you might like:
Benefits of Pumping Breast Milk Behind Bars (Podcast Episode 141)
Caring for Pregnant Women
Butterfly McQueen Would Not Make It as a Correctional Nurse
Eating Disorders Can Be Dangerous: Screen Your Inmate Patients
Mother’s Day Reminder: Women in Prison