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Arizona prisons up number of sanitary napkins for inmates

The Arizona Department of Corrections on Tuesday said it would immediately triple the number of free sanitary napkins it automatically provides each month to female inmates as it works to head off a Democratic proposal in the Legislature to provide unlimited free tampons, pads and other feminine hygiene products.

Rep. TJ Shope (R-Coolidge)

Rep. TJ Shope (R-Coolidge)

That legislative proposal was being held up by Republican Rep. T.J. Shope, who chairs the Rules Committee. He said the issue should be handled by the state prisons agency 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.”

Democratic Rep. Athena Salman was pushing the proposal to provide an unlimited number of free napkins, tampons or other feminine hygiene products. She called the new policy “a huge victory for women,” but said she wants guarantees a new governor or corrections department director can’t reverse it.

Rep. Athena Salman (D-Tempe)

Rep. Athena Salman (D-Tempe)

“We will also remain vigilant to make sure it’s implemented as promised, with no unnecessary barriers to women receiving any products they need,” she said in a statement. “I also have a commitment from the governor’s office to explore expanding the policy to include tampons.”

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.

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.

“We believe this change addresses and resolves, in an appropriate and timely fashion, the concerns raised in the last week,” the Department of Corrections said in a statement.

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

Former inmates testified before a House committee last week that requests for additional pads can be difficult to get approved. 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