Getting Your Period in Jail or Prison is the Worst. HB 2049 Could Help.

Incarcerated women have unique needs, and of course period products are a common concern. Often in Oklahoma jails, prison and detention facilities women are allotted a limited number of feminine hygiene products or forced to purchase marked up products, while making little to no pay. A bill in the Oklahoma House, HB 2049 authored by Representative Merleyn Bell, would address the need for feminine hygiene products, but it has yet to receive a hearing in committee. Please contact the Appropriations and Budget Committee chair, Rep. Kevin Wallace, to ask that it be heard.

Phone: (405) 557-7368

The following is a 2017 blog by Tulsa University Law Student and OCRJ volunteer, Kate Forest, on what it’s like getting a period while incarcerated.

“I’m going to answer a question you haven’t asked, maybe even one you’ve never thought to ask.

Getting your period in jail or prison is the worst.

It’s not a giant leap of the imagination. Getting your period anywhere at anytime isn’t fun. But for most of us, having a period is a routine, innate part of our lives and we don’t give it too much thought. It’s an inconvenience, to be sure. You go to the bathroom, see that bright spot of red, and roll your eyes; you were so not planning on dealing with this today. You grab a tampon, a cup, a pad, etc. and continue about your business. Maybe you take some pain reliever, or you take a hot bath, or you eat some chocolate.

But what if you couldn’t? What if you didn’t have any choice in what kind of product you had to use? What if you could only get pain relief at two fixed points in the day? What if you had no creature comforts? No hot bath, no soft bed.

No agency.

I work with a local non-profit that visits women in Oklahoma jails and prisons on a weekly basis. In a room full of women, with estrogen levels high enough to drown a person, periods are often a topic of discussion. Most often, it’s complaints. You see, women in David. L Moss are only given one type of product: a pad. They can ask for two at a time. The pad comes in only one size and one absorbency. If there’s anything in this world that is most certainly not “one size fits all,” it’s pads. Often, the women are resourceful by creating their own tampons from a deconstructed pad. It’s quite a beautiful process to witness: they gently peel back the first layer of cotton, roll the inner cotton to a various thickness (whatever her body and flow needs), braid another layer of cotton into a string, and wrap the whole thing back up in the first layer of cotton. Voila! A homemade tampon.

It’s not ideal, but it’s resourceful and creative, much like the women themselves. If I’ve learned anything from the women in David L. Moss, it’s how to make the best out of a bad situation.”

You can help change conditions around for women in jails and prisons by asking Representative Kevin Wallace, chair of the Appropriations and Budget Committee, to hear HB 2049.

Phone: (405) 557-7368

Angela Steinle