Health care for California’s Women Prisoners

Health care inside California women’s prisons is in a state of crisis. Women are needlessly dying from chronic and treatable diseases. There is not one full-time, licensed OB/GYN on staff at the largest women’s prison in the world, Central California Women’s Facility ty (CCWF). There is no regular OB/GYN care at Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW). Each facility houses nearly 3,600 women who need annual OB/GYN exams, standard pre- and postnatal care, and regular check-ups. Women with HIV and cancer are being denied medications and basic care.
For women prisoners with HIV, inadequate and inhumane health care put their lives at risk every day. There are dangerous and unnecessary delays in the refill of HIV medications and other prescriptions. It routinely takes 45 days to see a doctor. These women rarely receive their prescribed medications on time and have difficulty seeing doctors regularly.
At VSPW, women who live in the Security Housing Units (SHUs) endure constant verbal and physical harassment in their isolated cells, as do many women in the general population. CCWP’s health care campaign calls for an end to the SHUs and overcrowded prisons because they endanger and damage the mental health of women inside. We do not, however, support the construction of new prisons. Incarceration is not a solution to complex social ills.
In spite of the 1997 settlement of Shumate v. Wilson, a class action lawsuit mandating the California Department of Corrections (CDC) to correct systemic health care violations in two of Calfornia’s women’s prisons, health care continues to be a community crisis. People should not lose their right to health care because they are in prison. Women are suffering and needlessly dying because they are treated as less than human.
We ask you to join with CCWP, concerned health care providers, activists, teachers, students, mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers in the fight for women’s lives.
Demand Human Rights for Women Prisoners!
Standard OB/GYN care:

  • Licensed staff and regular check-ups
  • Appropriate and specific care for women with HIV, cancer and other
    immunosuppressive diseases

Humane conditions:

  • Shut down Security Housing Units and stop overcrowding
  • Expand community mother/infant care programs
  • Stop sexual assaults and guard brutality
  • Rebuild educational and treatment programs and re-open law libraries
  • Clean water, no rotten food

Basic HIV care:

  • Consistent access to HIV medications
  • Peer education and support
  • Access to special diet and nutrition requirements

Compassionate health care:

  • Consistent access to all medications
  • Compassionate release for prisoners with serious illnesses
  • Effective pain management and competent providers.