New Report Reveals Systemic Medical Neglect and Violence in CA Women’s Prisons

The COVID-19 pandemic delivered to the fore the general public well being crises unfolding in carceral settings throughout the USA. In California, the California Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has documented greater than 90,000 instances in state prisons, with greater than 3,500 of these instances in ladies’s prisons.

Individuals incarcerated in ladies’s prisons have reported alarming neglect in CDCR’s dealing with of the pandemic, together with months spent in quarantine models and the denial of bathroom paper, telephone calls, cleansing provides and showers. However the well being harms of incarceration existed lengthy earlier than COVID-19 and live on now.

My work as a public well being researcher and advocate explores the typically hidden public well being crises of gender-based hurt and incarceration. My crew lately launched new analysis, From Crisis to Care: Ending the Health Harm of Women’s Prisons, detailing the extreme individual-, family-, and community-level well being impacts of incarceration on cisgender ladies and transgender, gender nonconforming and intersex (TGI) individuals in California. Our analysis affirmed the pressing want to shut ladies’s prisons in California.

Our analysis included interviewing and surveying people who find themselves presently incarcerated in California’s two remaining ladies’s prisons, Central California Ladies’s Facility (CCWF) and California Establishment for Ladies (CIW). Our findings paint a dire image of individuals going through medical neglect, sexual violence, transphobic discrimination and inhumane residing circumstances whereas incarcerated.

In some methods, California’s incarcerated inhabitants mirrors nationwide social patterns. Because of the racism of the legal authorized system, 929 individuals in California’s ladies’s prisons had been Black in 2022. That is 25 p.c of the jail inhabitants, whereas Black individuals make up solely 6.5 p.c of California’s whole inhabitants. Transphobia creates the circumstances for TGI individuals to be disproportionately criminalized as effectively, and 67 p.c of our TGI survey respondents reported experiencing discrimination or violence for his or her gender id whereas imprisoned in California ladies’s prisons.

Moreover, 83 p.c of our survey respondents reported having an sickness, damage or incapacity, and 55 p.c reported having three or extra well being circumstances needing care. Ableism shapes how disabled individuals are policed, socioeconomically marginalized, and discriminated towards in each the medical and authorized sectors, main disabled individuals to be disproportionately incarcerated.

Certainly, research present an estimated 66 p.c of the incarcerated inhabitants within the U.S. is disabled: an estimated 40.4 p.c with a psychiatric incapacity and an estimated 56.0 p.c with a non-psychiatric incapacity. Particularly, estimations present {that a} increased proportion of individuals incarcerated in ladies’s prisons reported incapacity (79.5 p.c) in contrast with individuals incarcerated in males’s prisons (64.6 p.c). That is notably troubling contemplating medical neglect is attribute of incarceration. We discovered 66 p.c of our survey respondents reported that medical workers didn’t correctly deal with them; 60 p.c reported that medical workers didn’t examine the reason for their medical situation; and 51 p.c reported that medical workers didn’t order diagnostic exams.

Moreover, an alarming 40 p.c of our survey respondents reported experiencing reproductive abuse, corresponding to coerced sterilization or an untreated reproductive well being problem whereas imprisoned. A number of respondents shared that they awoke from unrelated surgical procedures to search out that their ovaries or uterus had been eliminated. One lady mentioned that she was ready for paperwork from a surgical procedure two years prior to search out out if she was sterilized.

That is a part of a protracted and sordid historical past of marginalized Californians going through reproductive abuse. Final yr, Gov. Gavin Newsom allocated funds for a brand new program to compensate survivors of state-sponsored sterilization, acknowledging the state’s shameful previous. Our analysis discovered that such injustices nonetheless happen in the present day, and the governor has the chance and obligation to deal with them additional.

CDCR’s censorship of details about what’s occurring contained in the state’s prisons provides one other layer to the issue. Early in our information assortment, we observed we had acquired dozens of survey responses from individuals in CCWF and none from individuals in CIW. Upon investigation, we realized that jail workers had not delivered the mail as a result of an unspecified CDCR mail protocol violation. Given this, volunteers then hand delivered surveys to individuals inside CIW. They acquired and accomplished our surveys, however the jail workers refused to mail them again to us. Why? Apparently, CDCR workers had been involved the info was being gathered for a attainable class-action lawsuit.

Regardless of this, there are causes for hope. Although “women’s incarceration has grown at twice the tempo of males’s incarceration in current a long time,” California is definitely one of many few locations within the U.S. the place the variety of individuals incarcerated in ladies’s prisons is considerably lowering. The variety of individuals incarcerated in California ladies’s prisons dropped from 12,668 in 2010 to three,699 in 2022 — a 70.8 p.c discount. This shift is due to commonsense coverage modifications demanded by group organizations and enacted by our state legislators lately which have shrunk the footprint of incarceration in our state. But, a lot work stays to be achieved.

California has the prospect to redirect the $405 million spent yearly on ladies’s prisons towards community-based assist programs, corresponding to protected housing, job alternatives and reasonably priced well being care. Such investments would advance public well being and gender justice and set an instance for different states to comply with. We urge policymakers, advocates, and the general public to have interaction with our analysis findings on the well being impacts of girls’s prisons and to affix us in calling for an finish to this unjust system of punishment.

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