Women In Federal Prisons Get Free Menstrual Products, Others Don’t

"Bloodstained pants, bartering and begging for pads and tampons was a regular occurrence," said Adrienne Kitcheyan who served six years in Perryville.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons announced that women in its facilities would be guaranteed free menstrual pads and tampons, last year.

Though this was a victory for women in Federal prisons, the majority of incarcerated women who were housed in state prisons and local jails remained unaffected by the new policy.

So only less than 10 percent of female inmates actually sought benefit from the free menstrual products.

Nevertheless, recently several other states have introduced proposals to address this issue. Lawmakers in Arizona are considering a bill that would offer an unlimited supply of menstrual products, including tampons, pads, cups and sponges to incarcerated women.

This would cost the state an estimated $80,000.

As of now, incarcerated women receive only 12 free pads each month, if they need more, they have to pay for them, and they cannot posses more than 24 at a time. Several women explained how embarrassing it was for them to deal with this ordeal.

"Bloodstained pants, bartering and begging for pads and tampons was a regular occurrence," Adrienne Kitcheyan said of her six years in the Arizona State Prison Complex-Perryville.

The Arizona bill may help these women out of their misery. “I can’t imagine something more uncomfortable than not having the menstrual products you need for your period,” the bill’s author, state Rep. Athena Salman, D-Tempe, said during a vote on the legislation. “So my heart goes out to these women.”

Inadequate menstrual supplies to women are a major problem for state and local prisons. Although most of the prisoners are men, the population of incarcerated women has been growing for decades.

There are 99,000 women in state prisons and 96,000 in local jails ― these women are not in institutions operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which houses 14,000 female inmates.

Arizona isn’t the only state taking steps to help menstruating inmates who don’t benefit from the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ new policy. Maryland, Virginia and Nebraska have also taken steps to help these women.

Thumbnail / Banner :  Reuters, Ueslei Marcelino

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