We cannot begin to imagine the perils of prison. While it’s true these individuals have been charged with a crime, they are there to be cared and rehabilitated, but conditions can be cruel and their rights obfiscated or completely ignored. Women are often forced to go completely without feminine care or pay the little money they are able to make, for low quality products in limited supply.
Beyond comfort (and basic human dignity), limited access can lead to infections. One former inmate told The Guardian, “I have seen pads fly right out of an inmate’s pants: prison maxi pads don’t have wings and they have only average adhesive so, when a woman wears the same pad for several days because she can’t find a fresh one, that pad often fails to stick to her underwear and the pad falls out.”
Finally, women in federal prisons will receive free tampons. A memo was issued by the Bureau of Prisons this week mandating that inmates have access to free period products (a wide range of them, including pads and liners).
“Wardens have the responsibility to ensure female hygiene products such as tampons or pads are made available for free in sufficient frequency and number,” Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman Justin Long told ABC by email. “Prior to the (memo), the type of products provided was not consistent, and varied by institution.”
Certain people may take issue with imprisoned women getting free feminine care. However, empathy must be applied when considering this. While they did commit crimes (presumably), these women have had everything taken from them, they do not have access to funds for self-care and the little money they do make could go toward things they want and need more. One former inmate told ABC, ‘”We were paid 12 cents an hour,” she said, and the money could be used for other purposes, like phone calls. “That’s the choice. Do I buy the tampons or do I call my children?”‘
Not that it needs to be said, but tampons are not a luxury item. Categorizing them as such means they are more expensive, taxed higher, and access is severely limited for homeless or incarcerated people, who have to rely on the government and nonprofit organizations to determine the priority of providing tampons and pads to the people they serve.
But things are changing. Taboos around menstruation are being broken and people are recognizing that access to period products are a right that every girl and woman is entitled to.
Photo courtesy of Womeninandbeyond.org