Reproductive Health Care and Family Planning Needs Among Incarcerated Women

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Women in correctional institutions have substantial reproductive health problems, yet they are underserved in receipt of reproductive health care. We assessed the level of risk for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and the reproductive health needs of 484 incarcerated women in Rhode Island to plan an intervention for women returning to the community.


We used a 45-minute survey to assess medical histories, pregnancy and birth control use histories, current pregnancy intentions, substance use during the past 3 months, histories of childhood sexual abuse, and health attitudes and behaviors.


Participants had extremely high risks for STDs and pregnancy, which was characterized by inconsistent birth control (66.5%) and condom use (80.4%), multiple partners (38%), and a high prevalence of unplanned pregnancies (83.6%) and STDs (49%). Only 15.4% said it was not likely that they would have sexual relations with a man within 6 months after release.


Reproductive health services must be offered to incarcerated women. Such interventions will benefit the women, the criminal justice systems, and the communities to which the women will return.

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