As many New Yorkers walk freely about in our day to day activities, we might often forget about our sisters of color who are incarcerated. A recent report by the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) recognizes the current inadequate reproductive healthcare access and the high rates of breast and cervical cancer, pelvic inflammatory diseases and sexually transmitted infections among women who are incarcerated. The research also shows that when compared to women who have not been incarcerated, those who have been incarcerated have higher rates of domestic and sexual violence.
[NYCLU] found that although women incarcerated in New York State are legally entitled to reproductive health care, few county jails have policies ensuring comprehensive access to such care. The county jail system, which houses about 3,000 women at any given time, is governed at the local level with little state oversight. Without a uniform policy, the quality of health care a woman receives in a county jail depends on where she is incarcerated.
To combat this gap in services, the New York State Commission of Correction has published a legal memorandum enforcing county jails to improve reproductive health services. These new standards include reproductive health screenings, breast exams, pelvic exams, pap smears and mammograms. The memo similarly addresses an incarcerated woman’s right to contraception, abortion, prenatal care and delivery services.