The GOP has long been criticized for their overpolicing of women’s bodies, but a state representative in Maine is raising eyebrows after voicing his concerns about women receiving menstrual products in prison.
Last Friday, March 15, Republican lawmaker Richard Pickett said that having free tampons, sanitary pads and menstrual cups should not be a right that’s given to inmates and that providing such items would give prisons the feel of a country club, according to Newsweek,.
“Quite frankly, and I don’t mean this in any disrespect, the jail system and the correctional system was never meant to be a country club,” Pickett said during a hearing for a bill that called for free access to personal items for the imprisoned. “They have a right to have these, and they have them. If that wasn’t the case, then I would be supporting the motion, but they do,” Pickett said.
Currently, those held in federal prisons are guaranteed access to free products, but some prisons in the state require women to purchase these items in limited supply at the commissary. “When you run out, you’re out,” Whitney Parrish, director of policy and program for the Maine Women’s Lobby, told local Maine newspaper The Beacon. “You may have no money to go to the commissary, and if you do, you may have to weigh that purchase against other necessities, like making phone calls to your children or attorney.”
Often, women are left to design makeshift pads to address their monthly cycle. With the bill, “any female person incarcerated in a jail or other county correctional facility has a right to comprehensive access to menstrual products,” according to the legislation.
State representatives ultimately voted 6-4 to advance the bill, with Pickett being one of the dissenting votes. A spokesperson for the lawmaker told Newsweek that his decision on the matter was based on his understanding that menstrual products were “readily available” and free of charge in prisons. Pickett does not believe the provision needs to be an official law.