Menstruation and Incarceration: Prisons often lack or withhold necessary hygeine products, study shows

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From The Trail:

Menstruation can be inconvenient even in the best circumstances. However, for individuals who are incarcerated, there are obstacles that can make it much more than a minor stressor. Horror stories range from placing orders for period products that arrive too late (or not at all), to having to prove to correctional officers that their products have been fully soiled in order to receive more of them.

The Correctional Association of New York (CA), an independent, nonprofit criminal justice advocacy organization, was granted a unique opportunity to monitor and make recommendations for improvements to the New York incarceration system. The full report, a 233-page document, is available online on their website, and contains surveys and interviews with incarcerated women, details regarding areas where growth has been seen, and mindful, thorough recommendations. The conclusions are based on information gathered between 2009 and 2013, and informed by the work the group has done since its founding in 1844.

They found that over half of the interviewed women responded that their monthly supply of pads (the only product that is provided without charge) was inadequate to meet their needs.

The study noted that the low quality of these products sometimes required doubling and tripling up in order to prevent bleeding through, which can put individuals at risk for urinary tract infections, rashes from chafing and yeast infections. All of these conditions are especially dangerous to women who may not be able to access adequate healthcare, have poor nutrition, live in dirty areas and are statistically more likely to have autoimmune disorders such as HIV. It is also not always possible to do laundry when necessary, so bloody, stained clothes are often worn, creating problems with odor and bacteria.

It was reported that requesting more pads was arduous, humiliating and often unsuccessful; guards also kept track of how many times a woman requested more products and used that against them. Some women report trading sex with guards in order to access necessary products.

The study also looked into the difficulties that arise when incarcerated women attempt to purchase menstrual products on their own, saying, “Prices for pads and tampons in prison commissaries vary widely and are prohibitive for women with few financial resources and outside support.”

Read full article here.