Transforming the System


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Respecting incarcerated people’ right to healthcare

The actual health of incarcerated people cannot be ignored in promoting successful re-entry into their home communities. While most prisons provide access to basic medical services, policies should be adopted to allow persons who have been incarcerated and recently released to maintain their Medicaid status with little or no interruption.

Medical care should be inclusive and responsive to people of various genders, sexualities, and gender expressions. Moreover, there should be legislation allowing for active Medicaid enrollment during periods of incarceration.

The National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women has identified several policy initiatives that Congress and state governments should take:

  • Affirmatively including the voices of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals in assessing policy initiatives that affect incarcerated people;
  • Requiring the provision of gender-specific and gender-sensitive medical care;
  • Providing education and care for women with HIV, AIDS, and Hepatitis C, including treatment for the curable Hepatitis C;
  • Providing of mental health and drug treatment;
  • Allowing access to essential medical care and appropriate feminine hygiene products including condoms and mouth guards.

To achieve the goal of protecting incarcerated people’ health conditions, Congress and state governments should additionally:

  • Increase Medicaid insurance enrollment of people in the criminal justice system;
  • Maintain active Medicaid enrollment during periods of incarceration.

Prison officials and the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) should:

  • “[E]nsure that LGBT-inclusive sexual health care is available as part of essential medical care in its facilities, and make condoms and other barriers freely available to federal prisoners as part of basic sexual health care and sexual health care literacy programs. BOP should also provide guidance to states and local recipients of federal law enforcement funding on the elements of basic sexual health care and literacy programming, including condom availability in all facilities of confinement.”
  • Provide incarcerated people who are transgender with any required medical therapies, including hormone therapy;
  • Prohibit the use of shackles on women during labor or postpartum recovery and provide adequate postpartum care including a minimum recovery period and depression screenings;
  • Allow independent commissions that allow formerly incarcerated people to inspect prison conditions;
  • Ensure that HIV-positive incarcerated individuals receive care consistent with Department of Health and Human Services treatment standards and guidelines upon detention and transfer.

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