'You have to be almost dead before they ever really work on you in prison': A qualitative study of formerly incarcerated women's health care experiences during incarceration in Louisiana, U.S

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Health & social care in the community


Globally, the rate of incarceration among women is rising, and in the U.S., women's incarceration has grown at twice the rate for men over the last four decades. Louisiana has the second highest rate of incarceration in the U.S. There is evidence that men in Louisiana prisons do not receive adequate healthcare, but little is known about their women counterparts. We aimed to document formerly incarcerated women's experiences with receiving healthcare during incarceration in Louisiana to inform policy and practice change. In partnership with two community-based organisations in New Orleans, Louisiana, between August 2016 and April 2018, we conducted semi-structured 1-hr interviews with 22 formerly incarcerated women who had been incarcerated in the state for at least one consecutive year. A convenience sample of participants was recruited through community-based organisations’ re-entry and health programmes. Our interview guide included questions about experiences with accessing care, reproductive health needs, interactions with providers and preventive care during incarceration. We used applied thematic analysis techniques to interpret data. Over 90% of interviewees identified as Black. Their mean age was 50.7. The average length of incarceration was 8.4 years. Participants reported multiple barriers to accessing care including punishment for seeking care, long wait times, costs, lack of respect from providers and health concerns being dismissed. Participants reported limited mental health, preventive and dental services; an insufficient number of providers; and poor health outcomes as a result of delayed care. Overall, women did not have access to adequate, timely care during incarceration. Findings suggest a need for policy changes related to the provision of carceral healthcare services and external oversight of prison conditions and healthcare delivery. Further research into women's experiences of ageing during incarceration and tailored transitional health models is needed.

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