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Incarceration is a women’s health problem. Nearly a quarter of a million women and girls are behind bars in the United States today; in recent years, women have become the fastest-growing segment of the incarcerated population. Two-thirds of women in prison in the United States are women of color, and they are all disproportionately impacted by a multitude of serious health challenges.

This Women’s Health Month, we’re focused on one challenge in particular: menopause behind bars. Because of our nation’s reliance on lengthy sentences, nearly 40% of people incarcerated in women’s prisons in California (and many more nationwide) are now experiencing or will soon experience menopause while incarcerated.

Menopause impacts more than two million women each year, with a variety of symptoms that can impact a woman’s quality of life so substantially that in some cases, it may actually be considered a disability. Unfortunately, obtaining accurate information and supportive care for perimenopause and menopause is a major challenge for many women regardless of incarceration status; by some accounts, fewer than one in ten physicians treating menopause feel prepared to do so. In prison, the problem and outcomes for women are far worse: a lack of education combined with environmental hazards, insufficient access to menstrual hygiene products and adequate nutrition, and barriers to care leave thousands of incarcerated women at risk of lasting health complications.

Impact Justice is stepping into this gap. The Menopause Project, our newest program initiative, will equip incarcerated women and people experiencing menopause with the resources they need for the dignity they deserve. Starting in California, and ultimately expanding nationally, we’ll improve access to quality perimenopause and menopause care in prisons by better supporting the physicians that serve incarcerated communities, as well as incarcerated people experiencing menopause themselves.

With your support, Impact Justice continues to tackle some of the toughest challenges in our criminal legal systems through groundbreaking research and pioneering, transformative projects. As always, our work is focused on demonstrating innovative alternatives, and proving that better outcomes are possible.

We’ve imagined something different for menopause care behind bars — now, it’s time to make it reality. I hope you’ll follow along with us on this new journey towards impact.

Stay updated on the Menopause Project

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