To Top

Despite Dignity Bill, Prisons Don’t Allow Free Women’s Hygienic Products

Menstruation cycles and products have long been a debated topic in legislation. Should there be a luxury tax on items such as tampons? Should sanitary products be offered for free? Women can’t stop their periods whenever they want to – it isn’t something they can control.

It’s a sentiment that is understood across the country, no more so than in places such as women’s prisons. In August, thanks to senators Cory Booker (NJ), Elizabeth Warren (MA), Kamala D. Harris (CA), and Dick Durbin (IL), a bill called the Dignity for Incarcerated Women was introduced, requiring prisons to provide free hygiene products to women. The bill ensures that “inmates are provided the following products (at no cost to the inmates): tampons (regular and supersize), maxi pads with wings (regular and supersize), and panty liners (regular).”

 Providing such an amenity should be a basic human right for self-care; however, not all prisons are complying with the bill. Inmates in certain states are reporting that not only are they still being denied pads and tampons free of charge, but that the products are only being offered at incredibly inflated prices. According to Amy Povah, a former inmate and the director of the CAN-DO Foundation, a box of tampons can cost as much as up to $8 – a price that inmates working incredibly low-wage jobs struggle to afford.

“Tampons [are] an unbelievable luxury that most women can’t buy,” she says. “Tampons, pads, panty liners for menstruation cycle – that should be something that’s a basic function that everyone is provided with, like toilet paper.”

In a 2015 report from the Correctional Association of New York, a female inmate can spend an entire week’s worth of earnings on toilet paper, and 54 percent of inmates have reported that they can’t get access to enough sanitary products.

The struggle for adequate hygienic products is felt nationwide. “There are panty liners in our commissary for purchase; however, I have never seen panty liners provided free of charge,” says an inmate in Aliceville, Alabama. A California inmate also describes the scrutiny they endured when it came to obtaining pads and tampons: “You were given an allowance [of menstrual pads] and they kept track of how often you asked,” they said. “We weren’t allowed to use tampons, which is terrible. As someone who doesn’t use pads on the outside, I was forced to stew in my own fluids.”

Having to publicly show one’s menstruation can completely destroy a woman’s self-esteem. “Providing menstrual hygiene products privately, immediately and for free is also about sending a body-positive message by not perpetuating shame and humiliation and secrecy,” says Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, who spearheaded the bill. “Women serving time in prison have value and deserve respect and dignity during their periods.”

It’s even getting to the point where women aren’t the only ones that feel the withholding is intolerable. “This is unacceptable,” says Booker. “It seems the Bureau of Prisons is not properly implementing these guidelines across all prisons and I plan to follow up with them directly to get an answer why.”

Menstruating is not something women choose to do. It isn’t like getting elective cosmetic surgery or buying makeup. Why should women have to pay for it?

Featured Image by Dave Nakayama on Flickr

Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    Janice Henshaw

    October 24, 2017 at 9:37 am

    Thank you for this informative article. It is shameful and unacceptable that this can
    happen to women in prison in 2017! Let’s hope that the laws will be stricter for
    prisons so women won’t have to go through this humiliation. Glad I could read this
    in NYMM

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in Be Informed

  • Human Trafficking Through the Ages

    Human trafficking is the act of trapping people through violent, coercive, or deceptive means. It is a major, global issue that...

    Lydia SchapiroOctober 7, 2020
  • France Grants Mandatory Paternity Leave

    France has recently made the decision to double paid paternity leave for new fathers extended by 28 days from one week...

    Kalyn WomackOctober 2, 2020
  • U.S. Marine Walks Free for Killing of Transgender Woman

    U.S. Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton was pardoned for the killing of a trans woman Jennifer Laude in 2014 by the Philippine...

    Kalyn WomackOctober 1, 2020
  • How to Manage Perfectionism

    Perfectionism can be extremely harmful as well as difficult to manage. Luckily there are ways to cope and improve your mental...

    Lydia SchapiroSeptember 24, 2020
  • Naomi Osaka Advocates for Racial Justice

    Learn about how star tennis player, Naomi Osaka, shows her social activism and support to racial justice on the court.

    Lydia SchapiroSeptember 16, 2020
  • Sustainability at Home

    Cultivating sustainability in the home is easier than you think! Learn about the easy ways to make your home more eco-friendly....

    Lydia SchapiroAugust 27, 2020
  • How Will College Change in the Fall?

    Keep reading to learn about the question marks surrounding the coming semester.

    Lydia SchapiroAugust 26, 2020
  • Egypt Making Strides Toward Equality

    Egypt took a step further in the direction of women’s rights a few days ago, approving a law that would protect...

    Kalyn WomackAugust 21, 2020
  • Black Mothers: The Risk of Giving Birth

    Serena Williams was not the first black woman to be ignored by her doctor post-partum. Black mothers consistently balance the joy...

    Kalyn WomackAugust 14, 2020
  • No More Bumps: 5 Steps to Smooth Skin

    Ladies, it’s hard to feel nice and smooth after shaving when ingrown hairs and bumps immediately take the spotlight. However, not...

    Kalyn WomackAugust 13, 2020