Policy banning prison visitors from having tampons suspended

Prison tampon ban generates controversy

NOTTOWAY, Va. (AP) - State officials have suspended a policy ordering women who visit the facility in Nottoway County to leave their personal feminine hygiene products at home.

The rule was put in place because authorities said some women are using tampons to smuggle drugs to inmates. The Department of Corrections cites "many instances" of smuggling that are resulting in inmates overdosing in their jail cells.

If you want to visit an inmate at the jail, women will have to make sure they've left their tampons at home.

"Why?" Paola Berrios asked.

"They got a lot of inside jobs going on,” Jonathan Morse suggested.

Authorities said some female visitors are smuggling drugs in their private parts, and even a woman who's doing nothing wrong could end up having a tampon confused for contraband.

"I'm a woman. I wouldn’t do that,” Berrios added.

The Department of Corrections said many are and they have to put a stop to it.

"I wonder why it took them so long,” NBC12's Personal Safety Expert Mike Jones said.

Jones is also a former police chief who once worked as a jail deputy.

"Facilities are constantly playing catch up with the smugglers…Anything that has an interior space can be compromised and used to smuggle something,” he said.

There’s mixed reaction from people in Central Virginia after hearing about the prison's plan.

"They can't have illegal substances in prisons or jails. It's also hard to say you can't bring this in,” Jed Carter said.

"It's a lot of crazy things that happen nowadays,” Morse said.

"They trippin,” Berrios said.

Agree or not, it's a done deal at the Nottoway prison, although it's not clear whether the policy will be applied to other state facilities. Jones said this plan should force would-be smugglers to think again.

"All you’re doing is enabling these folks to take one step closer to the grave. The other thing is - you can take their place when they die because you're going to be put in jail for doing it,” he said.

The ACLU released the following statement:

Helping people who are housed in jail or prison stay connected to friends, families, and communities is critical to rehabilitation and eventual, successful re-entry to society. Any policy that discourages visitors is, therefore, one that should be subject to the most exacting and careful review. In addition, a policy like this one that requires those who wish to visit people who are incarcerated to set aside their dignity and health is simply unacceptable. We call upon Department of Corrections Director Harold Clarke to immediately clarify DOC policy for visitors at all state prisons and to direct wardens at the Nottoway Correctional Center and other facilities to reverse any policy or practice that limits the visitation rights of visitors who are menstruating without regard to which hygiene product they choose to use.
Virginia Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga

The prison said female visitors who need sanitary products can receive them on site.