AZ Dept. of Corrections agrees to give inmates more free pads & tampons

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The Arizona Department of Corrections says it will immediately triple the number of free sanitary napkins it automatically provides each month to female inmates.

The ADC issued the following statement on Tuesday:

The Arizona Department of Corrections appreciates and values the comments and feedback it has received in recent days regarding sanitary napkin products provided to female inmates.  Department personnel have accordingly reviewed the department’s current policy and practice. 

As a result of this review, the department will continue to provide sanitary napkins free of charge to all of its female inmates, regardless of need.  Effective immediately, the department will increase the minimum baseline quantity that inmates receive each month, from 12 to 36.  As is the current practice, an inmate may request and, without charge, receive additional pads, if necessary.  Additional product options will continue to be available through the inmate store.

We believe this change addresses and resolves, in an appropriate and timely fashion, the concerns raised in the last week

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, Republican Rep. T.J. Shope, who said the prison system was addressing the issue and not through state statute and hailed the prison agency's decision.

"Every human being is deserving of respect, and I applaud ADC for revising their policy to provide female inmates with as many feminine hygiene products as they need," Shope said in a statement. "When I first became aware of this issue, I reached out to ADC and urged them to explore changing the policy, as an administrative change can be implemented much quicker than a change in statute. I thank ADC for their responsiveness."

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.

She calls this a victory for women, and released the following statement:

"This is a huge victory for women – for those who are incarcerated and suffering under the Arizona Department of Corrections' inhumane policy – and for women everywhere. What's been happening in Arizona prisons was an affront to basic dignity and human rights. I want to thank all of the women and men from all around Arizona and all over the world who spoke up, who bravely testified and shared their stories, and those who contacted lawmakers directly. Your voices made the difference.

While this is welcome news, in the future we would like to see this new policy codified in a way that can't be undone by a new director or governor. We will also remain vigilant to make sure it's implemented as promised, with no unnecessary barriers to women receiving any products they need. I also have a commitment from the governor's office to explore expanding the policy to include tampons."

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.

[READ MORE: Lawmaker, advocates work to give AZ inmates unlimited access to feminine hygiene products]

Previously, an Arizona House committee chairman halted the bill that would have guaranteed an unlimited supply of feminine hygiene products like tampons and pads to state inmates. 

Women across Arizona began bombarding Shope's office with pads, tampons and money.

 [READ MORE: Why women in Arizona are sending a state representative pads and tampons]

The #LetItFlow campaign began over the weekend as a direct response to the bill that stalled in the House.

"It just seems cruel and absurd to make women barter and beg and plead for what should be a basic human right, which is access to sanitation and hygiene products," said Christy Chavis of Phoenix who sent $20 on Monday.

There are about 3,900 female inmates at the state's women's prison west of Phoenix.

Inmates testified before a House 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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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