Arizona Has Made It Nearly Impossible to Access Hygiene Products if You’re Incarcerated

Arizona House Bill 2222, menstrual equity legislation that many have referred to as “the tampon bill,” was introduced to the all-male committee on Military, Veterans and Regulatory Affairs on February 5. Passage of the bill would give women in Arizona’s only female prison, Perryville, access to unlimited feminine hygiene products. Current Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) policy provides women only 12 generic, low-quality pads per month. Additional pads must be requested from corrections officers.

We chose to testify at the committee hearing last week, and in the ensuing days our testimony and images have made their way into article after article after article. We chose to confront the trauma of menstrual inequity and abuse because our sisters continue to suffer inside. At the time, we felt as if we were physically and mentally opening a door we had been knocking at for years while we were incarcerated, and finally our voices were heard. The bill passed the committee with a 5-to-4 vote.  And we — women who lived in and survived Perryville — breathed a sigh of relief for the women still inside.

This week, however, the hope we had to effect tangible change proved premature as Rules Committee chairman Rep. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, said he will not hear the bill because ADC intends to correct the policy within the prison code itself. ADC Director Charles Ryan, whose department faces hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines for failing to provide adequate healthcare for prisoners, said Tuesday that female prisoners would receive 36 pads per month as part of ADC’s proposed $1 billion annual budget.

Shope’s decision to not hear the bill in the Rules Committee, and to place the well-being of a vulnerable population back into the hands of ADC, is irresponsible. ADC has a long track record of medical abuse, and even under state scrutiny via Parsons v. Ryan, ADC refuses to comply under its own terms. The department has demonstrated an inability and unwillingness…

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