Women's Health Behind Bars: Not So Black and Orange

December 18, 2014 8:53 PM

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Tina lay bloated with end-stage liver disease, too sick to return to her jail cell. There was too much time on her sentence for drug possession to consider discharge home. As a prisoner, she was unlikely to be considered for a liver transplant. She had just turned 45 years old. In my work as a physician in a women's prison, I have taken care of far too many "Tinas" -- women whose decades of abuse, depression and substance abuse have culminated in slow terrible deaths in jail cells or hospital prison wards. How many opportunities have been missed to address their underlying social, medical and psychiatric instabilities, in ways that could have helped them to avoid incarceration completely?

While much public attention has focused on the flagrant human rights violations associated with incarceration in Eastern Europe, or the mass incarceration of black men nationally, there is a quieter but burgeoning epidemic of incarceration among U.S. women. The U.S. holds the dubious distinction of ...

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