Female inmates in Arizona scored a major win last month when the Department of Corrections tripled their monthly allotment of sanitary pads from 12 to 36. Heartening news made better by the fact that a group of women made it possible by sending a state lawmaker (unused) pads and tampons in the mail and using social media to raise awareness and outrage.
Before this development, female prisoners had no choice but to buy additional pads through commissary, a nearly impossible purchase for most. In many prison shops, a 16-pack of pads costs $3.20 and a 10-pack of tampons costs $2.05, according to Democratic state Rep. Athena Salman. As former inmate Adrienne Kitcheyan told The Arizona Republic, “When I’m making 9 cents (an hour) after tax, you really got to think if I want to put my whole month’s income into hopefully being approved for extra pads, if they believe I deserve them.”
— Arizona House Democrats (@AZHouseDems) February 12, 2018
Though this victory is an improvement, it is still far from ideal or even humane. That’s why Salman introduced House Bill 2222, which would appropriate $80,000 from state funds to provide inmates with unlimited access to sanitary products, including tampons. Salman told CNN,
“This issue speaks to the basic dignity of being a woman. By denying women additional pads and no free tampons, that is violating a woman’s dignity and that’s fundamentally wrong.”
The bill passed its first hearing but stalled out when it reached the Rules Committee, chaired by Republican state Rep. Thomas “T.J.” Shope who refused to give it a hearing. So protestors began to send his office tampons and pads, as well as money meant for inmates to buy additional female hygiene products.
Before the hearing, the ACLU provided the committee with a list of complaints from the women in Perryville, Arizona’s only state prison for women. Included was a woman with severe endometriosis who was given merely one extra box of pads and a roll of toilet paper, as well as a woman who said she’d for six weeks after giving birth in prison and was given half a box of pads.
As Salman said, “female prisoners in our prison system deserve just basic dignity and respect.”
Last week, Rep Jay Lawrence complained about having to?to testimony about “pads & tampons & the problems of periods” for incarcerated women. This week, Rep TJ Shope refuses to give #HB2222 a hearing. Now what? Now, we make our voices heard. #LetItFlow THREAD pic.twitter.com/RGlS92JEvf
— Steph H. ? (@StephH_AZ) February 11, 2018
Women on Twitter began to share the hashtag #LetItFlow in support of providing inmates with basic human necessities.
I’m sorry that @TJShopeforAZ had to hear about the biological processes involved in propagating our species. Now do the decent thing and give #HB2222 a hearing. Prohibitively expensive hygiene products for incarcerated women is absurd. #LetItFlow pic.twitter.com/nf49OoNhKa
— Christy Love (@C_Dub_Love) February 11, 2018
.@TJShopeforAZ, please give #HB2222 a hearing ASAP. It’s inhumane to deny women access to tampons and pads! In the meantime, I’m mailing you a few thing to pass along to the AZ Dept of Corrections #LetItFlow pic.twitter.com/t2ptXnRTLe
— Emily Kirkland (@ERKirkland) February 12, 2018
@TJShopeforAZ Female biology is a fact of life as are pads and tampons. It’s unconscionable that women are forced to ask for pads and work for tampons. Justify why you won’t allow HB2222 to get a hearing! And tell Jay Lawrence to grow up. #LetItFlow
— Cheryl Weiner (@AZPoolside) February 11, 2018
Hi @TJShopeforAZ! I’m a gynecologist. I would be happy to explain to you how the menstrual cycle works and the importance of feminine hygiene products to maintain personal and public health. In the meantime please give #HB2222 a hearing. #LetItFlow @ACOGAction @AthenaSalman
— Ilana Addis (@iaddis) February 11, 2018
— Mary Santy (@AZactivist) February 11, 2018
This is so basic it’s a no brainer… give incarcerated women however many feminine hygiene products they need… #LetItFlow
— Calvin J. Wiseman (@CalvinJWiseman) March 3, 2018
Though the DOC upped the amount of free pads inmates receive (tampons are still not included), Salman is still fighting for House Bill 2222 to be signed into law to prevent future politicians from rolling back the new policies. “This is so fundamental to the dignity of women, you can’t leave this up to chance that future administrations will change this rule back,” Salman said. “The women of Arizona deserve for this to be in statute.”
She also had this to say about Shope: “It is very peculiar that the bill is being stalled by the chairman who is only talking to the governor’s agency, the DOC, and not talking to the formerly incarcerated women who lived through this nightmare.”