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Advocating for Pregnant Women in Prison: The Role of the Correctional Nurse

Ferszt, Ginette G. PhD, RN, PMHCNS-BC1; Hickey, Joyce E. MS, RN, PMHCNS-BC1; Seleyman, Kimberly RNP2

doi: 10.1097/JFN.0b013e318281056b
Original Articles

ABSTRACT On any given day, approximately 6%–10% of women who are incarcerated in prisons and jails in the United States are pregnant. Although incarcerated pregnant women have been identified as a high-risk group because of compromised physical and emotional health when they enter these settings, their specific healthcare needs are frequently unmet or partially met during their imprisonment. Stressors imposed by prison life and separation from their newborn at birth often exacerbate existing mental health issues including posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Nurses in correctional settings play a strategic role in improving the health care of this population by promoting teamwork, incorporating standards of care, and advocating for changes in policies. Collaboration with the warden, physician or nurse practitioner, correctional officers, and social workers can lead to positive changes in health outcomes. Given the national emphasis on gender responsive treatment in prisons and jails, a window of opportunity exists to be a voice for these women and make significant changes in health care for this largely undeserved population.

Author Affiliations:1College of Nursing, University of Rhode Island; 2Rhode Island Department of Corrections.

The authors declares no conflict of interest.

Ginette G. Ferszt, PhD, RN, PMHCNS-BC, University of Rhode Island, College of Nursing; E-mail:

Received July 1, 2012; accepted for publication November 27, 2012.

© 2013 by the International Association of Forensic Nurses. All rights reserved.
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