Let’s talk about getting your period in prison.


Female inmates in Arizona scored a victory last month when the state’s Department of Corrections increased the amount of free pads they’ll have access to. But one politician thinks that move isn’t enough, saying access to feminine hygiene products ought to be signed into law.

Previously, female inmates in Arizona were allotted only 12 pads a month. If they ran through that supply, they had to purchase additional pads or tampons from the prison commissary.

But such necessary purchases can be a stretch for inmates, many of whom are paid around 15 cents an hour. In prison shops, a 16-pack of pads costs $3.20 and a 10-pack of tampons costs $2.05, Democratic state Rep. Athena Salman said.

So Salman introduced House Bill 2222, which seeks to provide inmates unlimited access to sanitary products, including tampons. The bill calls for $80,000 from the fiscal year 2019 general fund to pay for the products.

“This issue speaks to the basic dignity of being a woman,” Salman told CNN. “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 with the all-male Military Veterans and Regulatory Affairs Committee. Then it hit a roadblock when it reached the Rules Committee, chaired by Republican state Rep. Thomas “T.J.” Shope.

Shope says he stalled the bill in order to give the DOC leeway to revise its 12-pad policy.

“Every human being is deserving of respect,” Shope said in a statement published by CNN. “When I first became aware of this issue, I reached out to [the Arizona Department of Corrections] and urged them to explore changing the policy, as an administrative change can be implemented much quicker than a change in statute.”

But when women got wind that the bill had stalled with Shope, they leapt into action, mailing him pads, tampons and money intended for inmates.

The women shared their support for House Bill 2222 on Twitter, posting tweets and images with the hashtag #LetItFlow.

In response, the DOC revised its policy, increasing the amount of pads that inmates receive free of charge from 12 to 36.

“As is the current practice, an inmate may request and, without charge, receive additional pads, if necessary,” the DOC said in a statement. Tampons are still not provided.

Salman, however, knows her work isn’t done. She wants to see House Bill 2222 signed into law, to protect against the possibility of future government administrations changing or rolling back the DOC rule.

“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.”
Salman has said she’ll meet with the DOC and the governor’s office to continue to advocate for her bill.