ACLU: Pa. county prisons lack adequate health care for women

    A report covering two years of analysis finds women’s health care services are sorely lacking at county prisons across Pennsylvania, reflecting a prison system designed with men in mind.

    The American Civil Liberties Union analysis says of the more than 50 county prisons housing female inmates, many lack policies to provide adequate prenatal care, sexually transmitted disease testing, and abortion services.

    Roy Johnson, a warden at the Northumberland County Prison, says there’s little in the way of statewide standards for county prison health care policies,


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    At Northumberland, he said, pregnant inmates receive regular care.

    “Absolutely. Once they’re actually identified, and the actual pregnancy test is positive, then at that point they are seen regularly by the nursing staff and the medical staffing in-house,” he said.

    But Johnson said STD screenings are not required.

    He said that it’s difficult to offer long-term reproductive health care when the vast majority of inmates are serving sentences of less than two years.

    Carol Petraitis, who authored the study, said she heard from women and advocates who said pregnant inmates are fed on a standard schedule, sometimes going more than 12 hours without a meal.

    “For anyone who’s been pregnant, that is really stressful, difficult. Besides the fact that you’re hungry, it puts pressure on you and stress on the fetus,” she said.

    The ACLU report was compiled with information that came from right-to-know requests and interviews with medical experts.

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