Now, it is required that federal prisons provide feminine hygiene products for free to female inmates. The Bureau of Prisons has announced that all federal facilities with female inmates must make two sizes of tampons and maxi pads available.”Wardens have the responsibility to ensure female hygiene products such as tampons or pads are made available for free in sufficient frequency and number,” wrote BOP spokesman Justin Long in an email. “Prior to the (memo), the type of products provided was not consistent, and varied by institution.”
For Andrea James, 52, a former attorney and founder of the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, the memo was welcome news.
“It’s huge, what the Bureau of Prisons has done,” James said. “This issue has always been, across the board, an issue all incarcerated women were dealing with.”
James served 18 months in federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut, in 2010 and 2011. She recalled that during her time in prison, she and her fellow inmates had limited options.
“We had one (type of) very inadequate sanitary pad,” she said.
While tampons or other size pads could be purchased, it put undue financial strain on the inmates, James said.
“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?”
This move comes a month after Senators Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Dick Durbin and Kamala Harris proposed the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act, which includes changes to federal prison visitation policies, bans shackling of pregnant inmates or placing them in the hole and a ban on charging for phone calls. It also required for a range of tampons, pads and liners be made available.
However, according to Long, the recent measure by the BOP has nothing to do with that. He said, “This memorandum was in the planning process well before any legislative proposals.”
Harris praised the memo saying that “too many women reside in prison and jail facilities that don’t support basic hygiene or reproductive health, and that’s just not right.”
“I’m glad the BOP has adopted one feature of our Dignity for Incarcerated Women bill, but these women need more help to deal with other sky-high fees, restrictions on visits with family members, and access to humane health care,” reads a statement by Senator Warren. “Respecting the basic dignity of these women and helping them maintain family ties will make their return to their communities safer and stronger.”