Carolyn Sufrin

Assistant Professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics, School of Medicine and Assistant Professor of Health, Behavior and Society, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University

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About Carolyn

Sufrin’s research interests focus on the intersection of the politics of reproduction and mass incarceration. Sufrin started a women’s health clinic at the San Francisco County Jail that continues to provide gynecologic and obstetric care to female inmates. She also serves on the board of the National Commission on Correctional Health Care. Sufrin is a fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and serves on the organization’s Committee on Health Care for Underserved Women.  She has served as a technical advisor on local and federal legislation prohibiting the use of restraints on pregnant incarcerated women, as well as on other reproductive health policy interventions affecting this group of women.

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In the News

Carolyn Sufrin quoted on health care delivery and US prison policy by Mona Chalabi, "North Carolina Ends Shackling of Inmates during Childbirth" The Guardian, March 28, 2018.
Carolyn Sufrin quoted on treatment of pregnant inmates by Lauren Hotler, "Treatment Of Pregnant Inmates Just Got (Marginally) Better in North Carolina" Bustle, March 28, 2018.
"It's 2017, and Most States Still Allow Shackling of Prisoners During Labor and Delivery," Carolyn Sufrin, Interview with Josh Harkinson, Mother Jones, August 5, 2017.
Interview on women's healthcare in jail Carolyn Sufrin, Rewire, June 2, 2017.
Carolyn Sufrin's research on reproductive health care for women in jail discussed by Vice News, May 16, 2017.
Carolyn Sufrin quoted on issues with abortion procedures in prison by Renee Bracey Sherman, "It Shouldn’t Take a Superhero to Access Abortion Care in Prison, but in ‘Jessica Jones’ It Does" RH Reality Check, December 18, 2015.
Carolyn Sufrin quoted on incarcerated pregnant women by Simone Weichselbaum, "Could Virtual OBGYN Services Help Stop Miscarriages? One Arkansas Jail Hopes So" The Marshall Project, , December 10, 2015.
"Helping Women and Girls in Prison," Carolyn Sufrin, New York Times, December 10, 2015.
Carolyn Sufrin quoted on medical risks of restraining pregnant women by Jennifer Abbey, "Pregnant Inmate Sues after Being Forced to Wear Shackles during Labor" ABC News, June 29, 2012.
"End Practice of Shackling Pregnant Inmates," Carolyn Sufrin, San Francisco Chronicle, August 26, 2010.


Jailcare: Finding the Safety Net for Women behind Bars (University of California Press, 2017).

Explores how, in this time when the public safety net is in disarray, and when incarceration has come to be a central strategy for managing the poor, jail has become a safety net. Using ethnographic fieldwork and clinical work as an Ob/Gyn in a women's jail, and focusing on the experiences of pregnant, incarcerated women as well as the practices of the jail guards and health providers who care for them, describes the contradictory ways that care and maternal identity emerge within a punitive space.

"Reproductive Justice, Health Disparities, and Incarcerated Women in the United States" (with Alexa Kolbi-Molinas and Rachel Rot). Perspectives in Sexual and Reproductive Health 47, no. 4 (2015): 213-9.

Overviews the status of reproductive health care for incarcerated women in the U.S. Provides legal context of the right to health care and right to abortion, along with research showing how the fulfillment of these rights is lacking when it comes to reproductive health for women behind bars.  Describes status of prenatal care, shackling of pregnant women, and constraints on pregnancy and childbirth in custody through the lens of reproductive justice. 

"Long-Acting, Reversible Contraception for Incarcerated Women: Feasibility and Safety of On-Site Provision" (with Tianyi Oxnard, Joe Goldenson, Kristin Simonson, and Andrea Jackson). Perspectives in Sexual and Reproductive Health 47, no. 4 (2015): 203-211.

Argues that it is safe and feasible to provide LARC methods to incarcerated women. Discusses how correctional facilities should consider increasing access to all available contraceptives, including LARC methods, in a non-coercive manner as a strategy to reduce reproductive health disparities among marginalized women at high risk of unplanned pregnancies.

"“Doctor, Why Didn’t You Adopt My Baby?”: Observant-Participation, Care, and the Simultaneous Practice of Medicine and Anthropology" Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 39, no. 4 (2015): 614-633.

Describes the simultaneous fieldwork and clinical practice at an urban women’s jail in the United States. Discusses the experiences of delivering the infants of incarcerated pregnant women and of being with the mothers as they navigate drug addiction, child custody battles, and re–incarceration, the roles of doctor and anthropologist become mutually constitutive and transformative.

"Emergency Contraception for Newly Arrested Women: Evidence for an Unrecognized Public Health Opportunity" Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health 41, no. 1 (2009): 6-11.

Argues that incarceration does not preclude women's need for access to abortion, full access to services is not available in all settings. Discusses how improving women's overall health care in correctional settings should include increasing the accessibility of abortion services. 

"Contraception Services for Incarcerated Women: A National Survey of Correctional Health Providers" Contraception 80, no. 6 (2009): 561-5.

Discusses how contraception does not appear to be integrated into the routine delivery of clinical services to incarcerated women. Analyzes how the correctional health care system can provide important clinical and public health interventions to traditionally marginalized populations, services for incarcerated women should include access to contraception.