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Imagine you're a young woman who, due to stress or a hormonal blip, or even just your personal biology, you have a longer-than-average menstruation cycle. Sounds annoying, right? Now think about what'd it be like to deal with that while in prison. Even if it's just for something minimal, like petty theft, disorderly conduct, or marijuana possession, you're allotted a dozen pads for the month — no matter what.

This is the reality for female prisoners all over America. But one state just made a move to change that.


Maryland has taken a landmark step towards making hygiene products more accessible for prison inmates.

On March 1, 2018, Maryland lawmakers unanimously approved bills that require correctional facilities to provide free feminine hygiene products to all inmates.

Photo via iStock.

The state mandate was a huge win for feminists and activists who've been pushing for inmate rights. Reproductive rights groups have long advocated for making hygiene products more accessible for inmates. Diana Philip, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland, has been particularly outspoken about fair treatment for all women, and the need for state policies that make hygiene products accessible for incarcerated women. Philip's pointed out that women who've been incarcerated by the state haven't been able to get the supplies that they need.        

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

Inside or outside of prison, it's expensive to be a woman, particularly if you menstruate.

The good news? Federal policies actually make a lot of sense on this issue. But due to a weird quirk in U.S. prison practices, many incarcerated women will never benefit.  

Although federal prisons made hygiene products free for inmates in August 2017, most incarcerated women are actually in state prisons or local jails. This means that fewer than 10% of female inmates benefited from the new federal measures. Thus, most female inmates rely on state legislation to see changes in their prison. But, the problem of expensive or inaccessible products isn't limited to prisoners, though.

Photo by Presley Ann/Getty Images.

Even for women who've never seen a jail cell, a box of pads or tampons is pricey, ranging anywhere from $6 to $10 at a typical drugstore. Over the course of a lifetime, at a box of tampons or pads per month, the average person can easily spend thousands of dollars on hygiene products, and nearly $20,000 on products related to menstrual cycles, such as panty liners, Midol, and birth control.

Due to what's been deemed the “pink tax”, women have increasingly criticized the costs of hygiene-related and other products that are largely used by women. Low income communities are particularly vulnerable to these expenses, and are often unable to afford all of the costs that come with having a period.  

People who have periods have very different experiences from one another. Some experience extreme pain, have very heavy flows, and experience periods for more than seven days. Still, many prisons historically allocate a certain number of pads per month.

This disenfranchises women inmates with heavier or elongated flows. Women make roughly 75 cents a day for a day's work, and a 24-pack of pads is just over $2.50 in some states. With other necessities like deodorant, toothpaste, and edible food, saving for pads can be a challenge. When inmates need more hygiene products, they’re forced to rely on whatever income they make through the prison system to buy additional products.        

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

In a system that’s largely — and rightfully — criticized for its dehumanizing treatment of inmates, making hygiene products more accessible is a good step towards progress.  

As activists continue to push for inmate rights through various movements, such as the #LetItFlow campaign, there’s hope that other states will continue to shift policies to make prisons less dehumanizing to women. Recently, Arizona increased the number of pads it offers to inmates from 12 to 36.

Humans, regardless of background, experience, or misdeeds deserve rights to health, safety, and livelihood. By providing basic — yet necessary — products, our society can continue to move towards a more equitable and humane world for all.      

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

True

We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

via UNSW

This article originally appeared on 07.10.21


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