Menstruation in Prison

 

Having a period sucks. Besides the painful cramping that occurs, it can ruin clothing and lead to embarrassing moments. Every month many women experience this painful, messy and completely normal bodily function, and for years there has been more and more shaming and inequality that comes with periods. Now this light has been turned towards prisons.

Incarcerated women get periods, but access to sanitary products continues to be a slow process. In 2017, the Bureau of Prisons reported an irregular allocation of products, restrictions on availability of product type, size, or having to pay for products in prisons across the country.

This is not a question of comfort or luxury for female inmates, but one of health and safety. With a lack of availability and quality, inmates have been known to use what little they are given as long as possible or look for alternative solutions such as toilet paper. Long term use of a sanitary product or the improvisation of these products can lead to toxic shock syndrome, bacterial infections, and sepsis, all of which can become life threatening if gone untreated.  

Even in prisons where menstrual products are provided many times it is not to an unlimited degree. This forces inmates to ask correctional officers for more of the products. This can leave women vulnerable to abuse and humiliation. A simple search online brings up thousands of stories of this mistreatment by correctional officers with menstrual products as their power.

 

 

Legally federal prisons must provide sanitary products to female inmates, but quality and size variations are not specified. A bill (dignity for incarcerated women act) was introduced last Congress to tackle this issue but has seemingly gotten stuck in committee, and this bill, if it is ever passed, would not cover state prisons only federal ones. It seems that legal action on this issue is not a priority as bills of a similar nature were also stalled at state levels.

No woman asks to have or deal with a period every month. It is a natural process that must be attended to to ensure a woman stays healthy. These prisons are putting women's lives and long term health in danger by not providing up to parr menstrual products. This issue should be regarded in the highest degree and should be taken seriously by government officials. Hopefully with more attention these issues will be regarded as they always should have been and lead to the correction of these massive flaws. Contact your local and federal representatives to know what is being done in your state or to advocate for bills that address these issues.