Society and Culture
Bureau of Prisons to Provide Free Feminine Hygiene Products
The Bureau of Prisons released a memo last week declaring that feminine hygiene products would be provided to inmates for free. While this will only affect female inmates who are currently incarcerated in federal prisons, it’s a notable step forward for inmates who struggle to access basic hygienic products.
While some products were previously provided to women for free, many had to be purchased through the commissary, with the inmates’ own money. For the many prisoners who are from low income families, or those who are not able to work while behind bars, it can be incredibly difficult to obtain the money needed to purchase such items. And accessing those items through a commissary is actually difficult to begin with–for many prisons there is a long wait when it comes to placing orders. According to some reports, some women are forced to provide sexual favors to guards in order to obtain the feminine hygiene products that they need.
This announcement from the Bureau of Prisons comes right after a bill introduced by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) that would require feminine hygiene products to be provided for free. The bill, the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act, would also require other humane reforms in how female inmates are treated. Some of those reforms include easier access to visitations, a ban on shackling pregnant women, and access to OBGYNs.
In an interview with Bustle, Booker said:
Most folks don’t understand that so many women are being incarcerated are coming from environments that are not stable, that they are again survivors of violence, they might come in with an addiction. So now you’re struggling to recover from an addiction, you’re going through withdrawal, you have no resources, you have no support system and you’re struggling and all of that, and now you can’t even buy soap, toothpaste, sanitary products.
But while the new move by the Bureau of Prisons is a step in the right direction, the other issues included in the bill need to be addressed as well.