Could Menstrual Cups Restore Period Dignity in Prisons?

woman prisoner in orange jumpsuit standing behind bars

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At Capd Period, we believe in period freedom and dignity for every person on earth with menstrual needs. The number of people in women’s jails and prisons is increasing and has been sharply rising for decades. A recent Time article by Victoria Law and Rachel Kauder Nalebuff describes how 90% of inmates in female prisons are under age 55 and how the system and staff weaponize menstruation. There are no laws in 38 states regarding the provision of menstrual care in jails and prisons, and those that do often limit the number of products to an almost useless number per cycle. Could reusable options like menstrual cups help give back dignity to people without resources for too long? 

Period poverty exists on the inside and outside

close up of womens hands behind her back in handcuffs wearing orange jumpsuit

Period poverty, the term for not being able to afford or access menstrual products or washing facilities for periods, plays a role in the failing mental and physical health of people who suffer from it. Whether period poverty is due to circumstances in the outside world or is forced upon people due to prison rules, it is just as damaging. People suffering from period poverty suffer feelings of depression, shame, and low self-esteem. They often miss work or school due to a lack of access to products. 

Rehabilitation and shame don’t mix

People in jail or prison have often spent a lifetime fighting feelings of shame and low self-esteem. Many are from backgrounds of poverty and abuse. The feelings of shame, unworthiness, and humiliation are triggered when inmates have no products. They bleed into their pants and blankets, keeping them in a mindset of poverty and hopelessness. For those with heavy periods, their physical health deteriorates over time. Many place their health in danger and wear products way longer than recommended for safety. 

sanitary pads, menstrual cups, tampons on a green background

Rehabilitation happens when people can build a new, solid foundation to live the rest of their lives. When they can be productive, they feel differently about themselves and the world. They can become excited about the opportunity to change. The process has seen many people build successful lives after a rough start. How likely is it to happen when they are shamed and ridiculed once a month for something outside their control?

Could menstrual cups be an option?

It’s true that for all menstruating prisoners to have a good supply of menstrual products each cycle, it requires a lot of pads and tampons. It’s also true that they are not expensive and that states and the federal government can’t afford to pay for them. Jails and prisons buy many disposable items every day for health and safety needs without issue. 

close up of woman hands holding a menstrual cup and a canvas pouch against a gray background

But could reusable options like menstrual cups be a good option for those that would like them? As a one-time purchase and up to a 10-year lifespan, menstrual cups could change the daily lives of inmates. With high capacities and long wear times, they could help restore productivity and self-esteem related to better rehabilitation rates. 

Whichever products are will increase prisoner access to menstrual products, they need to be available immediately. With disposable options extremely affordable at such bulk buying levels and so many innovations in reusable menstrual products, there is no excuse to deny any prisoner their menstrual dignity.

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