Raising Women’s Voices

Women’s access to care in immigration detention centers

Posted in Uncategorized by raisingwomensvoices on April 24, 2009

The Women’s Rights division of Human Rights Watch released a report last month — and held a rountable discussion today — on the poor standard of women’s health care in immigration detention centers.  The report is based on interviews conducted with 48 detainees and visits to nine detention centers in Florida, Texas, and Arizona.

Immigration detention is the fastest growing form of incarceration in the country.  Last year, more thatn 300,000 people were held in immigration custody, of which 10 percent were women.  By international standards, the level of medical care provided to detainees must be equivalent to that available to the general population.  However, immigration detention policy is largely limited to emergency care and it is women who especially suffer from insufficient routine care.

Researchers point to lack of oversight and accountability of the facilities.  Many of the women are not properly informed of the available services and know little of the rights they have to access to medical care in this country.  Researchers recommended a “detainee handbook” be devised and handed out to all those taken into custody so that they are made familiar with facility procedures and available services.

Some women also reported difficulty reporting their medical needs to the medicual unit within the facility, and/or gaining access to a doctor once they had reported the need.

Testimony provided to Human Rights Watch suggests that the relationship of security personnel to the individuals in their custody may seriously undermine access to health care. In the most benign instances, some women said that they did not feel comfortable sharing private health information with the individuals with whom they interacted day in and day out. In other cases women alleged mistreatment by security staff in the course of requesting medical care or being transported for treatment.

The report discusses language barriers, neglect of mental health needs, insufficien routine gynecologolical care, utter lack of prenatal care, lack of access to abortion, and other issues that severely compromise the standard of care available to women in immigration custody.  Read more on these issues and see how the report uses international and domestic legal standards to outline these women’s right to care and define what a basic standard of care might look like.

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