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Women Mailed Pads And Tampons To A Politician After He Tried To Restrict Free Feminine Products

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.”

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.”

Women on Twitter began to share the hashtag #LetItFlow in support of providing inmates with basic human necessities.

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.”

h/t CNN/ NPR/AZCentral