Many states and the Federal Bureau of Prisons have enacted new laws or policies to deal with the problem, which is so widely recognized that it was a featured storyline in a recent episode of “Orange Is the New Black.”
The #MeToo movement is helping to raise awareness of a chronic shortage of feminine hygiene products in prisons, reports the Associated Press. Pushed by #MeToo advocates, state legislatures, corrections officials and the federal government are working to supply prisons and jails with adequate products, train staff, and raise awareness of the issue. The problem is so widely recognized that it is popping up in popular culture: A recent episode of “Orange Is the New Black,” a Netflix show about a woman’s prison, focused on the lack of tampon access. Maryland is on the verge of enacting a new law that mandates free access to menstrual products for prisoners. Virginia legislators passed a measure early this month. Lawmakers in Alabama, Arizona, and Connecticut have introduced bills. Arizona, Nebraska, New York and the Federal Bureau of Prisons have also made legislative or administrative changes concerning the availability of sanitary products.
“I think that there is a wave, and I think there’s a lot of attention that’s being paid now to women, period — whether that’s #MeToo, whether that’s Time’s Up,” said Monica Cooper, a former inmate who co-founded the Maryland Justice Project, which advocates for women in prison. Amy Fettig of the ACLU said the issue has emerged in the past year as part of a larger conversation about women in prison. “They still are a relatively small portion compared to men, and so their needs and situations have been largely ignored, both in our criminal justice system and by the public at large, and that’s finally beginning to change because of the work of advocacy groups,” Fettig said. “I think it’s also because of the larger #MeToo movement and awareness about women’s status in this country and how far we still have to go, as well as popular culture.”