FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 30, 2018
Bipartisan Bill Would Ensure Access to Menstrual Hygiene Products
for Incarcerated Women
(Annapolis, Md.) – New legislation that would expand access to menstrual hygiene products for incarcerated women will be introduced today in the Maryland General Assembly. The bill would require all Maryland corrections facilities to provide menstrual hygiene products to inmates free of charge and in the quantities they need. The bill’s numerous co-sponsors (33 Senators and 65 delegates) include both Democrats and Republicans.
”Menstrual hygiene products should not be considered a luxury, and Maryland must do more to prevent dehumanizing situations where women inmates don’t have sanitary necessities,” said bill sponsor Senator Susan Lee (D-16). “As long as such policies remain male-centered, a one-size fits all approach is an ill-fit with women.”
Maryland regulations state that inmates and detainees are entitled to menstrual hygiene products, but they do not require that such products be provided affordably or in adequate quantities. Incarcerated women across the state report that access to these products is severely limited.
“We Maryland women legislators are always looking for bills in which we can reach common ground, and this bill is an example of the great work we can do together,” added bill sponsor Delegate Pam Queen (D-14).
According to formerly incarcerated women, inmates may receive only a few pads a month when supplies are low. Pads are available through the commissary, but, because they are sold at full market price, access can be impossible for individuals without resources or prison jobs.
“As a formerly incarcerated woman in Maryland, I know firsthand that access to adequate menstruation hygiene products is a problem in our state prison, and should not be a debatable matter,” said Qiana Johnson, founder of Life After Release and a member of Reproductive Justice Inside, a statewide coalition advocating for increased access to quality sexual and reproductive healthcare in Maryland’s correctional and detention facilities. “This legislation is definitely a step in the right direction for improving the conditions of confinement for women inmates.”
Inmates sometimes resort to unsafe measures to take care of these basic needs, such as creating their own sanitary products. Advocates for the bill say that because inmates are under the “custody and control” of the facility, it is the facility’s responsibility to provide for basic necessities.
“We believe that the ability to manage one’s own reproductive health with adequate products and education, ensuring dignity and without stigma, is an essential human right,” said Kimberly Haven of the Women’s Justice Consortium.
Members of the Reproductive Justice Inside coalition include: American College of Nurse Midwives – Maryland Affiliate; Baltimore Doula Project; Center on Applied Feminism, University of Baltimore School of Law; Gender Violence Clinic, University of Maryland School of Law; Heels & Hustle; If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice; University of Baltimore School of Law; Interfaith Action for Human Rights; Justice and Recovery Advocates; Life After Release; Maryland Justice Project; Maryland State Conference of the NAACP; NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland; Planned Parenthood of Maryland; Not Without Black Women; Power Inside; Pregnancy in Prison Statistics; The Women’s Law Center of Maryland, Inc.; Whole Woman’s Health of Baltimore; and Women’s Justice Consortium.
Reproductive Justice Inside (RJI) is a statewide coalition advocating for increased access to quality sexual and reproductive healthcare in Maryland’s correctional and detention facilities. This includes the women’s state prison, county jails, juvenile facilities and local detention centers used for ICE detainers. Through story collection, policy research and organizing, Reproductive Justice Inside aims to increase public awareness of reproductive healthcare issues in Maryland’s correctional system and address conditions of confinement where systems-involved individuals are not in complete control of their reproductive futures and freedom.