PHOENIX — The Latest on a proposal to provide unlimited free feminine hygiene products to Arizona prison inmates (all times local):
The Arizona Department of Corrections says it will immediately triple the number of free sanitary napkins it provides each month to female inmates.
Tuesday’s move comes as a proposal in the Legislature that mandates an unlimited supply of tampons, napkins or pads was stalled after a committee chairman said the prison system was addressing the issue.
Female inmates will now be issued 36 sanitary napkins a month for free and can get more if needed. Tampons are only provided free when medically needed, but inmates can buy them at the commissary.
Democratic Rep. Athena Salman was pushing the proposal to provide an unlimited number of free napkins, tampons or other feminine hygiene products.
Before Tuesday’s policy change, the agency provided inmates with 12 free pads each month and inmates could get more if needed. They could not keep more than 24 at any one time.
There are about 3,900 female inmates at the state’s women’s prison west of Phoenix.
A bill that would guarantee an unlimited supply of free feminine hygiene products to state inmates has been blocked by the chairman of the House Rules Committee.
Republican Rep. T.J. Shope says the issue should be handled by the Department of Corrections and not through state statute.
Democratic Rep. Athena Salman wants to appropriate $80,000 to purchase the items for inmates upon request. It also would prohibit the Department of Corrections from making the women pay for them.
The agency currently provides inmates with 12 free pads each month. Inmates may requests an additional 12, but they cannot keep more than 24 at any one time. If women want tampons, the items can be purchased in the commissary.
Inmates, who make about 15 cents an hour, testified before the Military, Veterans and Regulatory Affairs Committee last week that requests for additional pads can be difficult to get approved. The committee narrowly passed the bill, sending it to the Rules Committee, but Shope chose to not place it on his committee’s agenda.
Salman posted a video on Twitter on Monday urging constituents to contact Shope’s office.
“If we are going to keep this issue alive, if we are going to keep it moving, your voices are the most critical thing in the bill’s survival,” Salman said in the video. “We need to make this commitment to the women in our prison system who deserve just basic dignity and respect.”
Advocates also encouraged supporters to mail feminine hygiene products to Shope’s office.
Department of Corrections officials said the agency is examining its policy.