Lawmakers are Finally Recognizing the Importance of Feminine Hygiene in Federal Prisons

We live in a country where everyone is created equal under the Constitution; but unfortunately, it sometimes seems like an empty promise. While imprisoned women have been desperately struggling to attain easy access to menstrual products for years, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has only recently mandated that feminine hygiene products be provided to inmates for free. Up until now, incarcerated women have had to pay for their own pads and tampons on earnings of a few cents an hour. And in some cases, they have had to sacrifice other amenities, like phone calls to home, for these hygiene products.

In the past, federal prisons have given correctional officers and guards the freedom and responsibility to distribute menstrual supplies in any fashion they’d like— whether that means personally handing them out or placing them in buckets for women to take. However, due to lack of regulations, an officer's bias and wrongful manipulation have often affected access to these products. A formerly imprisoned woman shared her experience in which a correctional officer had tossed tampons into the air as he watched inmates fight over them. This is just one of many anecdotes of in which menstrual supplies were mishandled.

It doesn't stop at free menstrual products, though. With Sens. Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren Dick Durbin and Kamala Harris' introduction of the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act, there is hope for even more change. In addition to supplying a variety of menstrual products, the bill would ban the mistreatment of pregnant women—including shackling or solitary confinement placements—as well as other injustices regarding visitations and the use of payphones. If passed, this law could make sure that female inmates are confined under healthier, more constitutional conditions.