Even though the male inmate population far surpasses the women inmate population, in the last 50 years, the number of women in United State’s jails has increased by 14 times. The Justice Reform– MacArthur Foundation co-published a report with the Vera Institute, which concluded that trauma, sexual violence and mental health issues were major factors for the increased women inmate population.
Women face many degrading obstacles in jail or prison. For example,in many states, a pregnant inmate is shackled during labor. This odious practice exists, even though, there is no record of a woman inmate in labor or after birth— harming anyone or trying to escape. During the last fifteen years, only twenty one states have enacted regulations restricting shackling during labor and post-delivery recuperation. The American Medical Association in a 2010 resolution called the practice of shackling pregnant inmates unsafe, medically dangerous, and “barbaric.”
Even obtaining the most basic hygiene, pads and tampons,for any woman prisoner, is a constant struggle. In Arizona, incarcerated women, are provided 12 free pads per month, and no tampons. Inmates have to buy any additional pads or tampons. A female inmate has to work 21 hours for a set of pads and 27 hours for one box of tampons. Their base pay for work is .15 cents per hour.
Currently, Arizona Rep. Athena Salman (D-Tempe) has proposed a bill that women inmates in state prison would receive sufficient free feminine hygiene products. The bill narrowly passed out of committee, and will now be considered by the full House.
During the committee hearing, Arizona women inmates testified about their ordeal.
Adrienne Kitcheyan stated,“Bloodstained pants, bartering, and begging for pads and tampons was a regular occurrence.”
It was reported that men on the Arizona committee were uncomfortable with the subject and several men wondered why they were debating menstruation. According to Arizona Central newspaper, Republican Rep. Jay Lawrence, the committee chairman, said, “I’m almost sorry I heard the bill.” He continued, “I didn’t expect to hear pads and tampons and the problems of periods.”
Several states, Virginia, Nebraska, and Maryland have proposed similiar legislation similiar to the Arizona bill.
Why are women inmates humiliated and denied– even this basic dignity!