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Women's experiences with pregnancy decision making and care in the criminal justice system

Carolyn Sufrin, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Project abstract

There are over 210,000 women incarcerated in the United States. Incarcerated women are disproportionately lower income women of color, and most are of reproductive age. Some enter prison and jail pregnant, often first learning of the pregnancy upon intake. For women who are pregnant and incarcerated their options and choices for their pregnancy and their developing fetus are shaped by the facility in which they are housed.

This will be a qualitative interview study to explore the experiences of imprisoned, pregnant women and their pregnancy related care during their incarceration. We will recruit pregnant women in prenatal care at two prisons and two jails in different states; site selection will be based on state health care laws, geographic convenience, and pregnancy outcome data from PI’s current study. Women getting prenatal care in prison or jail will be asked details about how the environment of confinement has influenced their pregnancy decision making and their future plans for their babies. We will follow-up with women with a brief survey at three and six months after their pregnancy has ended to assess feasibility of conducting long-term follow-up in a subsequent study.

Pregnant incarcerated women are one of the most vulnerable groups of women. Understanding how the environment of incarceration shapes how they make decisions in pregnancy will have important implications in ensuring their optimal health and the health of their babies.

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