Pregnant women in prison go through a very blood-curdling ordeal that one cannot stand and see as it happens. In this essay, I reflect upon one practical experience that I witnessed five years ago when my aunt went through a very bad experience in the hands of prison staff when she was pregnant with her firstborn daughter. This horrific incident makes me totally agree with Hamilton’s quote where he asserts that her goal is to stop anyone else from making a similar mistake. Olivia Hamilton had already undergone a similar problem while she was in prison. Upon finishing her jail term, she decided to come out and challenge the horrific situations that pregnant women are forced to undergo behind bars 6through the power of the pen. She creates an awareness of their problems and educates them on how their rights can be curtailed.
By explaining in detail how as a prisoner her own rights were challenged she exposes the unfair treatment she was subjected before prison officers when she was forced to go through a caesarian section birth without her consent. She also exemplifies how certain guarantees for pregnant women are not provided in prison. She deals with this issue by even showing evidence for instance the lack of feeding for her baby. This is because she was given the same ration of food as her baby and there were no exceptional concerns for the fact that she was pregnant She was even forced to sleep in upper corners as the restof the prisoners and carried and even carried heavy bags without assistance.
Hamilton asserts that the fact that prisoners are supposed to lose their liberty while in prison does not mean that they also lose their basic rights for instance being subjected to a decent treatment. She points out that a pregnant prisoner is supposed to be treated fairly and in accordance with their situation which is not the case in most prisons. Unreservedly she argues that most prison guards tend to abuse their faculties and exert excessive violence with impunity.
Apart from that, there are numerous women who get pregnant who are also defiled in prison by the guards and in the end get pregnant. My cousin got pregnant while in prison I was shocked because when she went to jail she was not pregnant. The provision of adequate access to quality contraceptives is a critical challenge to most prison facilities. Consequently women encounter various challenges in their attempt to access family planning services while in prison.
The fact that the population of women prisoners is less compared to that of their male counterparts has made them be segregated for decades. Most states have invested less in female prisoners because they warrant less attention given their small population. Consequently female prisoners particularly the pregnant ones suffer frequently from injuries, serious diseases and illnesses. In the long run they end up requiring and utilizing more mental and medical health services. Despite this correctional institutions have continued to provide incarcerated women insufficient health care services in comparison to their male counterparts.
My aunt who was imprisoned while pregnant faced a lot of problems while in prison. The quality of antenatal care in the prison was very poor. While a visit in a number of correctional institutions indicated that there were some that were providing good services this gesture was not replicated in other establishments. In the prison where my aunt was incarcerated women were accessing ante natal care once in a week and at times they were not informed of it by the prison officers. The fact that there is no Prison Service Order (PSO) for prisons in the country is the main cause of most of these problems. Each prison tends to fill the gap that is not filled by policy in its own way. Once a PSO is availed it would generate minimum standards that would lay out what pregnant prisoners are entitled to. This is because prison staff would be advised on the entitlements of pregnant prisoners and how this entitlement can be facilitated by them. Apart from that it will be in a position to provide details on acceptable situations, while recognizing the complex and specific necessities of pregnant prisoners.
The Prison antenatal care has faced hitches in its financing. While Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) are funded to offer healthcare to prisoners in local correctional institutions the bulk of the prison antenatal care is managed by acute trusts yet they do not receive any of this allocated money. In the end the acute trusts attempt to meet the complex and diverse needs posed by pregnant incarcerated women from budgets that have not been calculated with them in mind. The consequence is poor funding of correctional institutions antenatal care. In the prison where my aunt was incarcerated the conditions were worse for instance there was no telephone to book external appointments and the facilities were not only poor but also unhygienic. As a matter of fact most medical practitioners have indicated that without extra funding they will not be able to offer the kind of care that women on correctional institutions enjoy in their communities.
The correctional institution in which my aunt was incarcerated also suffered from the shortage of staff and this adversely affected her and her colleagues. This is because it is outlined in the correctional institutions guidelines that pregnant prisoners must be accompanied by Prison officers to ultra sound appointments and any other external appointments their absence more often than not led to cancellations that usually took a lot of time to reschedule. Ina number of cases including that of my aunt the scan rescheduling delayed the detection of critical conditions. Thus became problematic for at least 42 pregnant prisoners. For the issues had to be sorted out 24 weeks before their gestation for this was the permissible limit for termination thus reducing the chances for the women.
Apart from that the movement of prisoners was a barrier to the delivery of quality services. This is because it became very common for prisoners including my aunt to be relocated at short notice. When this was done midwives were not notified of these developments and in any case there was no formal communication network between prison midwifery teams. The hand held notes that the pregnant prisoners were given could not survive their movements. Even though some midwives made attempts to conduct their colleagues in other prisons this was not only difficult but also time consuming.
These horrific occurrences indicate that indeed female prisoners are primarily disadvantaged because prisons are patriarchal institutions that were initially designed for men. As provided in this essay they have in most instance become sc