Study by Former Female Prisoner Highlights Lack of Healthcare in Prison

By Christine Cupaiuolo — October 11, 2006

From the LA Times, Maeve Reston writes:

Some prisoners held at the California Institution for Women in Corona failed to get basic health and dental care and told researchers they had often waited months to see a doctor or get their prescriptions filled, according to a study conducted by an advocacy group and the San Bernardino County Department of Health.

The inmates, interviewed in July and August of 2005, also told researchers they had often skipped visits to the prison doctor because of a $5 mandatory co-payment, which they say they cannot afford when they are making 28 to 30 cents an hour.

One woman said that there was no follow-up after she had surgery, and others reported they had never had a PAP smear, a standard test for cervical cancer.

The study, released Friday, was conducted by Kim Carter, who cycled in and out of prison 20 times before she got her life on track and became an advocate for women in prison.

The good news is the state prison healthcare system has already improved somewhat since Carter conducted the interviews for this study. Conditions were dire enough that a “U.S. district judge seized control of the state’s $1.2-billion prison healthcare system and transferred it to the jurisdiction of a federal receiver to improve conditions,” according to the LA Times.

Carter says she is heartened by the changes at the state level, but she’s still pushing for a more comprehensive approach to address the needs of women in prison as well as those who have been paroled. “Right now, nobody is doing anything…. This hasn’t been a priority for anyone,” Carter said. “People tend to only want to look at the prison system itself, when the prison system is just one piece.”

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