I didn’t get arrested, I got rescued

Reproduction and the Problem of Care in the Safety Net Behind Bars

Past Event
Tuesday, Apr 26, 2016
12:30 PM — 1:30 PM
Vera Institute of Justice

Institutions of incarceration are widely understood for their punitive, depriving, and at times even violent characteristics. Yet prisons and jails also provide medical care and other services that people marginalized by poverty, addiction, and racism might not otherwise have, in part due to the disarray of the public safety net. In this talk, I explore how this apparent contradiction takes form in the ways that pregnancy is managed and experienced by women incarcerated at an urban county jail in California. Based on clinical work as an Ob/Gyn and on ethnographic fieldwork at this site, I show the ambiguous ways that forms of care emerge within a correctional system presumed to be devoid of care. As women’s reproduction is shaped by their frequent cycling through jail, the carceral net comes to stand in for the safety net.

Carolyn Sufrin, MD, PhD, is an Ob/Gyn and a medical anthropologist who has worked extensively on reproductive health issues affecting incarcerated women. She has provided clinical care to women in jail, conducted clinical and ethnographic research, established a rotation for Ob/Gyn residents in jail, and worked on advocacy issues such as legislation to prohibit shackling of pregnant incarcerated women.

Dr. Sufrin did her residency training at Magee Womens Hospital, and then did a family planning fellowship at UCSF, where she also obtained a PhD in medical anthropology, and is now assistant professor in the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and in the Department of Health, Behavior and Society at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She is currently working on a book, "Jailcare: Finding the Safety Net for Women Behind Bars" based on her PhD dissertation research.