Virginia Suspends Tampon Ban For Visitors To Its Prisons

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Breanna Edwards Sep, 26, 2018

The Virginia Department of Corrections should have really seen this coming from a mile away. But, oh well, you live and you learn.

Earlier this week, the DOC had announced a new policy noting that women visiting loved ones in its prisons will be barred from wearing tampons or menstrual cups due to concerns about contraband being smuggled in.

In an attempt to buffer the backlash, Department spokesperson Lisa Kinney had said that pads would be offered to those wearing tampons or menstrual cups so that they would be able to continue their visit without issue.

What the department did not anticipate, apparently, was the backlash that would follow anyway as they attempted to dictate what sanitary products someone could use and the invasion of privacy that would be required to secure that information.

And so now, Virginia’s secretary of public safety and homeland security has announced, mere hours later, that the ban will be suspended.

“A number of concerns have been raised about the new procedure,” Secretary Brian J. Moran, tweeted Tuesday afternoon of  the policy that was meant to be effective by Oct. 6. “I feel it appropriate to immediately suspend the newly developed policy until a more thorough review of its implementation and potential consequences are considered.”

Kinney had said that there were “many instances” where visitors have attempted to smuggle drugs inside a body cavity, including the vagina, according to the New York Times. The policy would have insisted that men and women not have anything hidden inside a body cavity…including their sanitary products.

So those who happened to be using either of those products would either have to wear a pad brought from home (or one provided by the prison), and then take a body scan. If any “potential contraband” is spotted during the scan, the visitor would then have two choices: be subjected to a strip search, or leave without seeing the inmate.

“Offenders in Virginia have died of drug overdoses while inside our prisons,”  Kinney had insisted. “It’s our job to keep the offenders and staff as safe as we can.”

Nonetheless, the announcement triggered complaints of the policy being discriminatory and invasive, drawing criticism from activist groups and inmate advocates.

Carla Peterson, the director prison advocacy group Virginia Cure, told the New York Times that she was happy to hear about the suspension of the policy.

“Our hopes are that more steps and policies that preserve and restore the dignity of persons incarcerated and their families will continue to be taken into consideration,” she said.

And, as American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia spokesperson Bill Farrar put it, having contact with friends and family “is critically important to people being rehabilitated and having a successful re-entry to society and not repeating criminal behavior.”

The policy, Farrar told the times in a interview earlier Tuesday, could have “a very negative effect and discourage people from visiting those who are incarcerated.”