On February 15, 2012, the ACLU of Pennsylvania released a new report, "Reproductive Health Locked Up: An Examination of Pennsylvania Jail Policies."
The report exposes the fact that none of the 57 counties in the commonwealth that house women inmates have adequate policies in place to ensure that incarcerated women have access to the reproductive health care services to which they are legally entitled.
This lack of policies not only put women's health at risk, but it also leaves county jails open to legal liability.
Originally developed with male prisoners in mind, prison policies often fail to take into consideration the unique needs of female prisoners. There are more than 3,800 women in Pennsylvania county jails at any given moment. Three-quarters of them are of reproductive age, and approximately six percent are pregnant upon admission to jail.
Most incarerated women are accused of or convicted of nonviolent crimes, are undereducated, come from minority groups, and fall below the poverty line. The majority are mothers and the sole caretakers of their children.
The report examined policies on a range of issues, including pregnancy testing, contraception, prenatal care, screening and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, and access to abortion services.
Copies of the report were mailed to all county prison board members, solicitors, wardens, and medical contractors on February 8, 2012. In its cover letters, the ACLU-PA highlighted the particular weaknesses of each jail and offered to work with the counties to improve their policies and practices.
Press release: Counties' Inadequate Reproductive Health Policies Put Incarcerated Women at Risk 2.15.2012