Your Source for Feminist Discourse

Periods in Prison

PP menstrual products

If you are a uterus owner, chances are you have experienced the discomfort and inconvenience of a menstrual period. We all know about the pink tax, the fact that women’s and female products are typically priced higher. On top of that, period products such as tampons, pads, and menstrual cups are considered “luxury items” and therefore can be taxed. Yeah, having periods sure is a luxury. Here at JMU, we have the recent benefit of free tampons and pads in almost all public bathrooms on campus, and that happened just this academic year. But not everyone has that benefit.

You would imagine nearly every individual who passed sex ed in middle school would understand that having a period is a natural part of life and must be dealt with, usually with pads and/or tampons. Unfortunately, policy-makers seem to either disagree or have all somehow failed basic high school biology.

tamponsThe Arizona Department of Corrections has decided that inmates will only receive 12 thin pads at most, and when they run out they have to prove they need more. That’s right, they have to show a corrections officer their full pad in order to get a fresh one. Some individuals even wake up with blood soaked clothes and sheets and have to beg to even take a shower. Oh and tampons? Nope, not allowed. Those are a “security risk.” Which makes sense; I’m pretty sure that’s how Andy Dufresne escaped in the “Shawshank Redemption”…or maybe that was how the prisoners escaped from Alcatraz…one of the two.

Listen, I have a big problem with prisons for a multitude of reasons. But one of the main issues the U.S. prison system faces is with its lack of human empathy. It fails to see the people sent there as human beings. Menstrual products are not a privilege; they are a human right. The richest country in the world has no reason for restricting access to sanitary products for its people. Even if they decide to allow inmates more products for menstrual needs, as long as they are not considered a “right,” they can be taken away as easily as they were given. I don’t trust prison systems to do the right thing, and this is a power they will surely continue to abuse.

The ACLU has worked hard to get legislation passed addressing this horror, but it is somehow still considered a partisan issue. Which brings me to my final thought: When will lawmakers realize that the female body is not a “partisan issue” they can debate about? No person or body of peoples can decide whether or not I or anyone else has a right to control what happens to their own body.

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