Storage of different feminine hygiene products in cabinet. Getty Images.
The following article was originally published on News5Cleveland.com and is published in the Ohio Capital Journal under a content-sharing agreement. Unlike other OCJ articles, it is not available for free republication by other news outlets as it is owned by WEWS in Cleveland.
Ohio law does not explicitly state that feminine hygiene products need to be given to those incarcerated who need them, but a new bill would change that.
After getting charged with a drug offense, Melissa Hall was sentenced to two years in a regional jail in West Virginia. After spending time with Ohio nonprofit Opportunities Peoples Justice Leaders, she said the buckeye state is the same.
“I have seen females walking around in the day room, you know, with blood in their pants and requests over and over,” Melissa Hall said. “We literally would sit there for days and be ignored.”
Speaking with formerly incarcerated people across the state, state Rep. Latyna Humphrey (D-Columbus) says she was disturbed that people in prisons and jails did not have ample access to the necessities they deserve.
“Folks who are incarcerated, women who are incarcerated, are humans, too,” Humphrey said. “If I’m being honest, this is something that should have been implemented a long time ago.”
The lawmaker introduced House Bill 743, a bill that would require correctional facilities to provide inmates with an adequate supply of feminine hygiene products. It would also make sure the institutions have enough product.
Although just introduced, it has already received bipartisan support.
“This is a human right, a human rights issue,” the Democrat said.
Humphrey knows the bill has a slim chance of getting through with only 6 weeks left to pass, but she doesn’t have an opponent for the election, so she knows she is going to reintroduce it next year. She said this is her way of putting the idea into people’s minds.
Since the Ohio law is vague about hygiene products for inmates, OCJ/WEWS called and emailed the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) to get clarity. Here are the questions that were asked:
- Do you have a statement on the bill?
- What is your policy on menstrual products?
- Are they free?
- Could inmates buy them?
- How many products do inmates receive if they need them?
- Is there a limit?
- Do you believe the department currently has adequate funding from the state for these products?
- Has the national tampon shortage impacted the department?
The department only answered two out of eight questions.
“Feminine hygiene products are available to the female population at no cost,” the ODRC spokesperson said. “Supplies are available in a discrete area where they can be obtained at any time. These items are also available for purchase in the commissary.”
Along with providing products, the bill would also require the facilities to have a range of sizes, a written protocol in place and a sanitary procedure for disposing of products. Also, they can’t deny feminine hygiene products or the use of showering or bathing facilities while experiencing menstruation, regardless of whether the inmates are separated from the general population for degree of charge or disciplinary reasons.
“I think that it’s wonderful that that some attention is actually going for that because it is very, very needed,” Hall said.
Hall, who is now three years sober, said these products could have made her time much more productive, and it would have made her re-entry easier.
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