Health care provision. Standards of medical care within prisons vary greatly both from country to country and from prison to prison. When health care facilities are outside the prison they may offer better standards of provision, but they may create other problems such as:. HIV positive women risk passing the disease onto their babies and unborn children.
The prison may not provide for the sanitary needs of women or women may have to pay for their own sanitary provision. Women who are menstruating or going through the menopause need regular daily showers.
It is humiliating for women to have to use washing and toilet facilities in the presence of others, most particularly during menstruation. They should also be able to change their bed linen frequently. They may also have particular health care needs such as hormone replacement therapy or food supplements. Pregnancy and childbirth. Pregnant women in prisons need special resources and attention to diet, exercise, clothing, medication and medical care.
Prison is not an easy place to be pregnant and the inflexibility of a prison regime is incompatible with the needs and care of a pregnant body. Mental health.
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Mental health problems are more spread among women prisoners than in the prison for men or in the general prison. A lot of women have problems with lower-level of mental health, such as personality disorder, which do not qualify them for a psychiatric bed. Such women may need access to treatments and therapy designed specifically for them, and even in women-only prisons conditions may not be ideal. Women can be extremely worried about what will happen to their children, especially in the early stages of detention.
Research has suggested that this can exacerbate or bring on mental health problems. Depression, self-harm and suicide. Doctors are more likely to diagnose depression in women than in men even when they have similar scores on standardized measures of depression and more likely to prescribe mood altering psychotropic drugs to women than to men. Outside prison men are more likely to commit suicide than women but the position is reversed inside prison, and self-harm in prison is a huge problem and more prevalent among women in prison. Violence and vulnerability. In those countries where all prisoners are vulnerable to torture and inhuman and degrading treatment, women and juvenile female prisoners are particularly at risk, both from male prisoners and from male prison guards.
The power imbalance between prisoners and guards together with the closed nature of prisons provide opportunities for harassment, exploitation, abuse, prostitution, rape and indecent assault of female prisoners by staff, both male and female. Even in countries where this is not the case, such as in the UK, women prisoners are vulnerable to other prisoners.
A high proportion of UK women prisoners tell that they feel unsafe. Mothers in prison. Most women in prison around the world are mothers. Women are more likely to be the sole or primary carer for children and this factor makes the prison experience significantly different for women. The effects of maternal imprisonment on their families are generally more disruptive than the effects of paternal imprisonment.
This is not adequately recognized by the criminal justice system. Since the numbers of women who are sent to a prison are rather low and the tendency to send women to prison for lesser nonviolent offences is increasing, so the woman herself can not understand the possibility of imprisonment as the outcome of her deeds. Such fact can be a cause of additional stress for her and her kids. Prison visits from children. Visiting prisons can be a difficult and frustrating experience for children. So, traveling for a long distance, entering a grim building, being searched, spending time in a harsh adult environment with a mother that one might not even be able to touch may be extremely distressing to a child.
Furthermore, the new carers may have their own family responsibilities, as well as financial constraints, which put strains on taking in additional children leading to children moving from one carer to another and in particular adding to the financial, time and emotional burdens of taking children to visit their imprisoned mother. Children of imprisoned mothers. The rights and best interests of the children of women prisoners are rarely considered during criminal justice processes, even though parental imprisonment has a major impact on their lives. There are three options:.
Within each of these, there are then a number of matters to be considered which are encapsulated in the table overleaf. Children separated from their mother. Children left in the community may be looked after by their father, grandparents, other relatives or friends of the family, taken into state care or left without carers. Siblings may be separated from each other in order to make the situation not to difficult, or they may be taken into State institutions. A mother whose children have been placed in the care of the state or another person usually cannot reclaim custody without appropriate accommodation, so even a short prison term may lead to permanent separation of families.
Some prisoners may not disclose this information voluntarily for fear that their children will be permanently taken away from them. As a result, governments do not make social provision or policies which address the problem of children with incarcerated parents. The imprisonment of the mother has a great impact on the children; it affects every aspect of their lives and not just the relationships with their mother.
It feels the same as while the bereavement, but with less support, from the new carer, teachers, and other people. Children of imprisoned parents have an increased tendency to exhibit aggressive and anti-social behaviour compared to the general population. Researchers have found that the effects of parental imprisonment can be serious.
The impact on the children will, of course, vary according to their age, surrounding family and community response, environment and individual character. Babies and children in prison. Some women may spend part or all of a pregnancy in prison and give birth while still serving their sentence.
If mothers give birth while serving their sentence, or are imprisoned when they have a baby or young child, that baby or young child may come into the prison to live with them. Special resources and facilities available to mother and babies in prison varies, but usually consist of accommodation within a specialized Mother and Baby Unit MBU.
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Toys are sometimes provided for the children and the mother may have more freedom in terms of staying in an unlocked room, having access to a kitchen in which she can prepare food for the child etc. Because of the small number of women in prison who have children living with them, the number of MBUs is low, meaning that a mother may be imprisoned a long way from the rest of her family. This creates problems regarding prison visits and maintaining contact with any older children in the family.
Additional concerns about babies and children living in prison are the effect this has on their development — physical, mental and emotional. How long babies or young children can reside in prison with their mothers — or even whether they can do so at all — varies considerably across countries. The separation of mother and child can be a very traumatic experience for them both. Some countries try and make the separation process as gradual as possible, in order to ease the pain and trauma of separation.
Babies and young children who are living in prison with their mother also require specialized health care. Maintaining links with family. When imprisoned mothers are the primary carer of children, separation from their mothers is usually more traumatic than if the father is incarcerated; this is of course much worse where the mother is the sole carer.
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Research has shown that if family ties are maintained, the chances of prisoners re-offending upon release are lowered, so it is important to take measures to try to preserve these ties. Problems in maintaining these links include:. Foreign nationals. Foreign national women prisoners may be either resident or non-resident in the country where they are imprisoned.
Common difficulties may be faced by both male and female foreign national prisoners, such as problems relating to language and misunderstandings surrounding the customs and cultures of the host country, which may lead to isolation. In prisons where the prisoners are dependent on external assistance, whether for basics such as food, hygiene products and clothing, or for small luxuries, women without family at hand to visit not only face the direct problems of not having such items, but are vulnerable to exploitation by other prisoners or prison guards in order to receive the necessities for living.
Foreign national women who are not resident in the country of imprisonment may often be very far away from their children and families, causing them anguish and anxiety. Their children may not have the financial means to come and visit them. Telephone calls may be prohibitively expensive for both the mother and her children and difficult to arrange because of time differences. If the children are too young to read and write, then communication via letters is not an option. Many women foreign nationals in prison are there for drug smuggling and may have left their children in the temporary care of friends or family, expecting to return in a few days.
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Resident foreign national women can face deportation when they have completed their sentence, which means further separation from their families, or their having to relocate as well. Transgender prisoners. Transgender prisoners face particular difficulties and pose special challenges to the prison system precisely because of the question as to their classification as male or female prisoners.
In many countries with indigenous populations, indigenous women represent the fastest growing segment of the prison population. They may also have different needs from other women prisoners. Post-release issues. Women leaving prison receive varying degrees of support from the prison and social services. They may face many problems in addition to the pressures which may have caused them to commit their initial crime, such as: getting a job, finding accommodation, staying drug or alcohol free and regaining custody of children who have been in state care during their imprisonment.
Even a short prison term may lead to the mother losing the rented accommodation in which she had been living, and it is common for a mother to be unable to regain custody of her children if she does not have anywhere to live.