Original Articles

The health needs of women prisoners: a field survey


Introduction. Health care in prisons represents an important part of public health due to the interaction between prisons and society. Women prisoners have needs that distinguish them from male prisoners, however little is known about how those needs are met. The aim of the study was to gather information about the needs of women in prison and to identify which of their needs are the most or the least met. Methods. This study investigated the needs of detained women using a newly developed Questionnaire based on Gordon’s model. In this descriptive study, data were collected from a onvenient sample of women recruited from two Italian prisons. Data analysis used descriptive statistics. Results. Fifty-five women (response rate = 92%) completed the self-reported questionnaire. Our findings showed that physical needs are met worse than psychological and social needs. The majority of physical needs were related to the inability to meet food preferences and the difficulty in respecting food requirements related to disease and by religion. The women experienced a loss of privacy, and they need more time for improving the quality of their relationships. The majority of the participants (65%) declared that they suffer from psychological disorders with an alarming percentage (29%) stating that they had thoughts of self-harm. They commonly consume tobacco (87.3%), and abuse substances (20%). Discussion and conclusions. The recognition of multi-dimensional women’s needs is of primary importance to create opportunities to support incarcerated women and to build health-promoting gender-sensitive interventions.



prisoners, incarceration, women’s health, public health, health needs

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