Visiting someone in prison can be a complicated and frustrating process from start to finish, and at every step of the way, prison officials can decide to deny access to visitors.
Virginia tried to come up with yet another hoop for prison visitors to jump through: On Monday, they announced that visitors would no longer be allowed to wear tampons and menstrual cups when visiting inmates, but with 24 hours, they'd backtracked, saying this policy would be subject to "further review." This quick reverse was due to public outcry, so we need to keep it up!
Prison officials tried to claim this policy was necessary to prevent "contraband," saying people smuggle drugs and other forbidden items internally, so barring the use of internal menstruation supplies would ensure visitors don't bring hazards into the prison with them. We think it was just another way to add humiliation and unpleasantness to the process of visiting a friend or loved one in prison.
Under the policy, if visitors arrived wearing tampons or menstrual cups, they would be ordered to remove them and given a pad to use instead. If they refused, they would not be allowed to enter the prison for their scheduled visit.
Everyone deserves the right to manage their period in the way they see fit. That's why advocates were outraged and why state officials decided to take a second look at the policy.
It's not up to the Virginia Department of Corrections to tell visitors which menstrual supplies they should use. This is a violation of privacy and dignity, and for some visitors, it may be a health or hygiene issue as well.
We're calling on the Department of Corrections to permanently strike down this wrong-headed, humiliating policy. While drug abuse in the prison system is a documented issue, violating the privacy of prison visitors is not going to solve it, and will in fact only serve to isolate incarcerated people who count on visits to stay in touch with the outside world.
Let our people flow!
Photo credit: GovernmentZA/Creative Commons