New policy from the Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBP) now requires that all facilities make feminine hygiene products, such as tampons and pads, available for free to prisoners who need them.
In an email memo issued earlier in August, FBP spokesman Justin Long said that "wardens have the responsibility to ensure female hygiene products such as tampons or pads are made available for free in sufficient frequency and number. Prior to the (memo), the type of products provided was not consistent, and varied by institution."
Andrea James is a former lawyer and founder of the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls. In 2010 and 2011, she served 18 months in a federal prison.
Speaking with CNN, James recalled tough choices made by prisoners involving feminine hygiene products, which the prisoners themselves had to pay for.
"We were paid 12 cents an hour [for in-prison work]," she said, and that wage could be spent on other things, such as phone calls. "That's the choice. Do I buy the tampons or do I call my children?"
According to CNN, the new policy arrives a month after Democratic Senators Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Dick Durbin and Kamala Harris introduced the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act into Congress. Among other issues, the Act requires that women in prisons have access to multiple sizes of free tampons, pads and liners. Long said the new announcement had nothing to do with the proposed law, however.
In a statement, Harris said she applauded the memorandum, adding, "too many women reside in prison and jail facilities that don't support basic hygiene or reproductive health, and that's just not right."