The new policy of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons was heralded by women’s rights advocates as a major step in a movement to broaden access to menstrual products for incarcerated or poor women.
The U.S. government is beginning to offer tampons and a variety of sanitary pads free to federal inmates, a policy change heralded by women’s rights advocates as a major step in a movement to broaden access to menstrual products for incarcerated or poor women, reports the Washington Post. A Bureau of Prisons memo issued this month said that women should be provided with a range of menstrual products, including tampons and various kinds of sanitary pads, at no cost. The guidance clarifies a vague policy that advocates say has led many incarcerated women to make do month after month with a short supply of substandard menstrual hygiene products. The change came three weeks after a bill was introduced by Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) to provide the products for free to incarcerated women. The provision is part a larger package of proposed reforms meant to improve basic rights for the women who comprise the fastest growing segment of the prison population.
Booker said he was “encouraged” that the Bureau of Prisons is finally “explicitly requiring” that the products be provided free of charge to incarcerated women. He said he plans to monitor enforcement. “A policy memo is just words on a piece of paper unless it’s properly enforced.” Activists said the policy shift coming from the Department of Justice is a major validation of the movement. Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, an attorney and leading activist in the movement, said the new guidance is an “extremely powerful” statement and an illustration that the movement has bipartisan support.