From substance abuse to domestic violence, correctional nurse Donna Bloice has experienced first-hand the medical struggles of women in prison.
From substance abuse to domestic violence, correctional nurse Donna Bloice has experienced first-hand the medical struggles of women in prison.

This is what life is like for women who leave prison

From substance abuse to domestic violence, mental health to chronic disease, correctional nurse Donna Bloice has experienced first-hand the medical struggles of women in prison.

But it's watching their deteriorating health conditions outside of the prison system which has motivated her to write a PhD to tackle the health issues seen in recidivist prisoners.

Titled 'Who Cares About the Health of Female Former Prisoners?', Donna is compiling insights from nurse and midwife navigators to understand and create sustainable corrective health service models.

 

Correctional nurse and academic Donna Bloice is doing a PhD to study and improve the health outcomes of incarcerated women. PICTURE: MATT TAYLOR.
Correctional nurse and academic Donna Bloice is doing a PhD to study and improve the health outcomes of incarcerated women. PICTURE: MATT TAYLOR.

 

She said women are leaving prison healthy, having been well-nourished, given access to medical care and screenings and provided with support for any chronic health conditions, but that does not translate when they leave.

"We fix them up, we give them medications while they're in prison, they're eating well, they're socialising, and then they've got a court appointment and the judge says time served, you're going home," Donna said.

"These women could be getting on a bus to Aurukun from Townsville, and all they have is 7 days' worth of medication, no referral system, no handover, no continuity of care.

Correctional nurse and academic Donna Bloice is doing a PhD to study and improve the health outcomes of incarcerated women. PICTURE: MATT TAYLOR.
Correctional nurse and academic Donna Bloice is doing a PhD to study and improve the health outcomes of incarcerated women. PICTURE: MATT TAYLOR.

"What I'm seeking is a model of care that translates into the community and I'm thinking it might be a navigator system, but it might not; I'm wanting the input from the navigators to tell the study if that's what's required."

Nurse navigators were introduced as an election promise in 2017 and assist patients in navigating health services, linking patients with appropriate health professionals in a timely manner.

Donna said there is a correlation between health care and repeat imprisonment, hoping to stem the rate of incarceration and improve women's transition back into the community.

For her PhD, she's interviewing nurses and midwife navigators with experience in corrective health services, as it is not uncommon for prisoners to view prison health services as their regular health facility due to the cycle of recidivism.

"If you look at the social determinants of health they're the same as the social determinants of crime and that's a key factor here," Donna said.

"I can't send somebody out with a bag of diabetes medication, I have to make sure that they're going to be able to sustain that and manage themselves, but there's nothing in place at the moment.

"I'm hoping the women who have babies today who are prisoners, maybe that generation will make some impact but I'm hoping their children is where the impact is."

*For 24-hour domestic violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine on 1800 600 636.  

Originally published as Donna's PhD an eye opener on life after prison


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