What It's Like To Get Your Period In Prison

Photo: JoJo Whilden/Netflix.
Everyone's favorite dramedy Orange is the New Black is at its best a show that never fails to pick apart the unfair absurdities of women's lives. And there is no better example of this than the season 4 plotline about periods.

Litchfield's overcrowding issues reach a critical point: The women's prison is running out of tampons and maxi pads. "I've got a wad of toilet paper so far up my hoo-hoo, I'm not sure it's ever gonna come out," inmate Maritza Ramos complains.

The guards, however, don't see this as a major issue. “There’s a hundred new inmates, but the same budget for inessentials,” a prison worker explains. “You can buy tampons at commissary.”

The problem? Tampons cost $10 a box. If you're already reeling at the thought of paying so much for something that is, indeed, essential, imagine what it's like to have to buy $10-a-box tampons when you make 10 cents an hour — if you're lucky enough to even have a prison job.

As it turns out, this storyline is frustratingly accurate.

According to a 2015 study by the Correctional Association of New York, 54% of women in prison said that they did not receive enough sanitary pads a month. The study also reports that New York prisons give out 24 pads to each prisoner per month, but the poor quality of these pads means they hardly last. “My period lasts seven days... Sometimes I have to wear four at a time because they are so thin,” an anonymous inmate said in the study.

On the bright side, a few strides are being made to rectify this situation. Earlier this week, New York City passed a series of measures in a 49-0 vote to ensure free tampons for prisons, schools, and homeless shelters. These laws make New York City the first in the nation to provide free period products to women in public facilities, The Washington Post reports.

Mayor Bill de Blasio supported the bill "because tampons and pads aren't luxuries — they're necessities," he told BBC.
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