Inmates Will No Longer Have To Pay For Tampons In Prison

It takes a long time to see social progress take place, but instances where we can see occurrences of "period shaming" eradicated are always happy to witness, but long overdue. 

A memo, issued by the Federal Bureau of Prisons this month, now requires all federal facilities that house female inmates to make two sizes of tampons and maxi pads available, in addition to panty liners.

Up until just now, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has had no policies requiring prisons to provide female inmates with necessary feminine hygiene products. Unfortunately, most inmates were made to purchase pads and tampons with the slave wages they earned working prison jobs.

(Photo: Wiki Commons / Officer Bimblebury)

Andrea James, Former attorney and founder of the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, served 18 months in federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut, in 2010 and 2011. Speaking with CNN, James expressed the grief associated with having inadequate options for female sanitary products.  

"We had one [type of] very inadequate sanitary pad," she explained, and while tampons or pads could be purchased, it put palpable financial strain on the inmates, having to choose between sanitary products or other needs. 

"We were paid 12 cents an hour [for in-prison work] That's the choice. Do I buy the tampons or do I call my children?"

"Wardens have the responsibility to ensure female hygiene products such as tampons or pads are made available for free in sufficient frequency and number," Bureau spokesperson Justin Long wrote in an email to CNN. "Prior to the [memo], the type of products provided was not consistent, and varied by institution."

These issues exist between necessary feminine products and the women they aim to protect because our tax laws still classify tampons and other feminine hygiene products as “luxury products.”

Classifying pads and tampons as such not only makes them more expensive, but also severely limits access for homeless or incarcerated people.  

The prison systems modest step towards declassifying feminine hygiene products as a "luxury good" in exchange for seeing it as a humanizing necessity is just one step in the right direction towards eradicating period shaming and better looking out for our sisters as a whole.