Amy B. Smoyer, PhD

Prison Food, Incarcerated Lives, Health & Social Work

The Prison Nourish Project

How does the prison experience impact perceptions of health and wellness among people living with HIV?

The Prison Nourish Project uses qualitative methods - semi-structured interviews - to build knowledge about the incarcerated lives of HIV-positive people. Twenty people - including men and women, incarcerated and formerly incarcerated - were interviewed in Rhode Island and Connecticut about their prison experiences with food and eating.

Preliminary analysis suggest that HIV-positive people are cautious about their health in prison, using access to health care and food to stabilize and strengthen their health. While many people are protective of their HIV status, stigma related to the illness is low, especially among women. HIV is central to identity, but not a master narrative, rather one of many ways in which self is defined. For most people, concerns about obesity, addiction, and other chronic conditions are more pronounced than HIV, which is relatively easy to manage.

Smoyer, Amy B. (2015-2016).  Overweight/Obesity and Weight Gain Among HIV-Positive Prisoners in Rhode Island: Prevalence and Intervention Feasibility. Pilot Projects in HIV/AIDS Prevention Research Program, Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS, Yale University.