Lawmaker, advocates work to give AZ inmates unlimited access to feminine hygiene products

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Sue Ellen Allen Sue Ellen Allen

A former inmate tells us women in Arizona state prisons only get 12 free pads per month for their menstrual cycles. Advocates say that supply is not enough, and now a new bill would make feminine hygiene products unlimited at no charge.

"Nobody should be humiliated and have to bleed in public," said Sue Ellen Allen, who was released from Perryville prison in 2009, after serving seven years for securities fraud. She said she saw this issue play out all the time.

"If you need more, you can ask for up to 12 more," Allen said. "But if the officer is in a bad mood, they could just humiliate you."

Allen said women knew they could go to her for extra.

"They know where they can get pads because they have to," Allen said. "If they have a heavy flow or they have a bad month for them, they have to know where to go."

"For the committee, it was all men and I think they learned a lot listening to the testimony," said Rep. Athena Salman, representing District 26 in Tempe. She is sponsoring House Bill 2222, which would appropriate $80,000 a year to give female inmates an unlimited supply of free feminine hygiene products.

"About 15 other states right now currently provide free tampons," Salman said. And the Federal Bureau of Prisons made a similar move last summer. Salman said this bill is now stalled in the Rules committee.

"Is it human rights to be able to take care of yourself? I think it is," Allen said.

The Department of Corrections sent us a statement saying:

The agency is evaluating revisions to current policy relative to the quality and minimum quantity of feminine hygiene products provided free of charge to all of its female inmates. We are confident that concerns can be appropriately addressed administratively rather than through statute.

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Lindsey ReiserLindsey Reiser is a Scottsdale native and an award-winning multimedia journalist.

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Lindsey Reiser

Lindsey returned to the Valley in 2010 after covering border and immigration issues in El Paso, TX. While in El Paso she investigated public corruption, uncovered poor business practices, and routinely reported on the violence across the border.

Lindsey feels honored to have several awards under her belt, including a Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Award, Hearst Journalist Award, and several National Broadcast Education Association Awards.

Lindsey is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, and she currently serves as a mentor to journalism students. She studied for a semester in Alicante, Spain and also earned a degree in Spanish at ASU.

She is proud to serve as a member of United Blood Services’ Community Leadership Council, a volunteer advisory board for the UBS of Arizona.

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