Virginia prisoners could soon receive free feminine hygiene prod - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Virginia prisoners could soon receive free feminine hygiene products

Right now, pads are free at most facilities across Virginia, but many other jails and prisons in the state, don’t provide free tampons... or tampons at all. (Source: NBC12) Right now, pads are free at most facilities across Virginia, but many other jails and prisons in the state, don’t provide free tampons... or tampons at all. (Source: NBC12)
If the bill becomes law, The Department Of Corrections says the cost to prisons will be included in the budget and is estimated at $33,769. (Source: NBC12) If the bill becomes law, The Department Of Corrections says the cost to prisons will be included in the budget and is estimated at $33,769. (Source: NBC12)
RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

If House Bill 83 is signed into law by Governor Ralph Northam, incarcerated women across Virginia would have access to free feminine hygiene products.

The bill was introduced and sponsored by Del. Kaye Kory, D-Fairfax.

In a statement Kory said:

“HB 83 originated when I met with a group of women recently incarcerated in Virginia state correctional facilities, i.e. prisons. The women were all working with the volunteer support group, Friends of Guest House. Knowing that the female prison population in Virginia had grown by 300% over the past two years, I was eager to speak with them and learn how I might assist with their re-entry and learn how to stem the tide of women being sentenced to prison.

These women told me that a major problem for them while in state prison or local jail was that they did not have access to the menstrual products that they needed when they needed them. Practices varied from site to site, but most had to pay for pads and tampons and were shamed when requested these products. 

By shamed, I mean that one former prisoner told me that she had to display the used product before being given a new product. 

By paying for the products, I mean that women were often charged a price far in excess of market price per pad or tampon - these are prisoners who have no income other than what they are given for their labor while in prison or what they are given by friends and family on the "outside." 

These women have no assets and no defenses against such discrimination and opportunism.”

Right now, pads are free at most facilities across Virginia, but many other jails and prisons in the state, don’t provide free tampons... or tampons at all.

Tampons are often available through commissaries, meaning inmates have to pay for them.

In Henrico, only pads are offered to female inmates.

According to Sheriff Mike Wade, it's because of doctor recommendations.

Lisa Harvey, an inmate at Henrico County Jail, thinks access to free tampons would be beneficial to female inmates.

“It would definitely be a plus; it would definitely be a plus for the jail,” Harvey said. “Being able to have another option as opposed to pads is excellent for women."

If the bill becomes law, the Department Of Corrections says the cost to prisons will be included in the budget and is estimated at $33,769.

VADOC says they have been providing both sanitary pads/napkins and tampons free of charge since around the first of the year. Previously, pads were free and tampons were available through commissary.

The Virginia Board of Corrections hasn't commented yet on the cost for local and regional jails.

“The problem of menstrual supplies in correctional facilities is nationwide," said Kory. "I am very proud that our General Assembly has unanimously passed legislation that will provide these essential products to incarcerated women - women who cannot deny their biological needs. Virginia was the first state in the nation to pass this legislation.”

The bill passed the house and senate and is now sitting on the governor’s desk.  

The governor's office requested to amend wording in HB83 to read "regulations" instead of "standards" in order to be congruent with the current wording in the Department of Corrections' manual for the operations of correctional facilities.

The amendment to HB83 will be voted upon on April 18 at the veto session. If the governor signs the bill, it will take effect in July.

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