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Feminine Hygiene Products and Prisons

February 15, 2021
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WRITTEN BY Dr. Jill Barnas

The Missouri Department of Corrections (MDOC) offers free, yet nonabsorbent, sanitary napkins to incarcerated menstruating individuals, while adequate alternatives must be purchased. HB 318 specifies the Department of Corrections must ensure that feminine hygiene products, that conform to applicable industry standards, are available for free while they are confined in any of the Department's correctional centers. Additionally, every sheriff and jailer who holds a person in custody must ensure that tampons and sanitary napkins are available for free and in a quantity that is appropriate for the health care needs of the person.

Highlights

  • Incarceration disproportionately affects ethnic minorities who may further be affected by reduced healthcare practices while incarcerated.
  • In Missouri, incarcerated individuals make a base pay of $7.50-$8.50 per month (33 to 37 cents per hour); feminine hygiene products cost 70-80% of their monthly wage.
  • Free sanitary napkins are provided by the MDOC; however, 80.3% of survey respondents created homemade tampons due to inadequate absorbency and reported problems associated with increased reproductive and urinary tract infections.
  • Thirteen states and Washington, D.C. have passed legislation requiring free access to these products in prisons and correctional facilities.

Limitations

  • There are no available reports of fiscal impacts (positive or negative) from states that have provided free feminine hygiene products to correctional facilities and prisons.
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