Family planning services for incarcerated women: Models for filling an unmet need

Carolyn Sufrin, Sara Baird, Jennifer Clarke, Elizabeth Feldman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Purpose-Incarcerated women around the globe are predominantly of reproductive age. Most of these women have been pregnant before, and many want to be sexually active and avoid pregnancy upon release. Yet few of these women are on a regular method of contraception. Providing contraceptive services for women in custody benefits individual and public health goals of reducing unintended pregnancy. This policy briefing reviews evidence for an unmet need for family planning in the correctional setting, and policy implications for expanding services. The paper aims to discuss these issues. Design/methodology/approach-The authors describe four model programs in the USA with established contraceptive services on site, highlighting practical steps other facilities can implement. Findings-Correctional facilities health administrators, providers, advocates, and legislators should advance policies which should counsel women on family planning and should make a range of contraceptive methods available before release, while remaining sensitive to the potential pressure these women may feel to use birth control in this unique environment. Practical implications-Family planning services for incarcerated women benefits individuals, facilities, and the community. Social implications-Policies which enable correctional facilities to provide comprehensive family planning to incarcerated women-including reproductive life goals counseling and contraceptive method provision-promote equity in access to critical reproductive health services and also provide broad scale population level benefits in preventing unintended pregnancy or enabling counseling for healthy pregnancies for a group of women who often have limited access to such services. Originality/value-This policy briefing highlights an area of health care in prisons and jails which gets little attention in research and in policy circles: family planning services for incarcerated women. In addition to reviewing the importance of such services for this population, the authors also highlight model family planning programs in correctional facilities. These provide actionable insights for other administrators and providers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10-18
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Prisoner Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • Contraception
  • Correctional health care
  • Family planning
  • Long-acting reversible contraception
  • Prisoners
  • Reproductive health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Professions (miscellaneous)


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