POLITICS

Maine Lawmaker Says Free Menstrual Products Would Make Prison Like 'A Country Club'

State Rep. Richard Pickett argued that incarcerated women can already buy pads and tampons, although many cannot afford the products on low prison wages.
Maine state Rep. Richard Pickett, pictured in June 2015.
Maine state Rep. Richard Pickett, pictured in June 2015.

A lawmaker in Maine recently suggested that jail would be like “a country club” if incarcerated women were given access to free pads and tampons.

State Rep. Richard Pickett (R) made the comments during a hearing last week on a state bill that would guarantee free menstrual products in all of Maine’s jails, county correctional facilities and state correctional and detention facilities. Pickett, the chief of police in Dixfield, voted against the bill and explained his reasoning, the Maine Beacon reported

“Quite frankly, and I don’t mean this in any disrespect, the jail system and the correctional system was never meant to be a country club,” he said, according to Bangor Daily News reporter Alex Acquisto

“They have a right to have these and they have them,” Pickett continued. “If that wasn’t the case, then I would be supporting the motion, but they do.” 

Pickett added that the Democrats were simply trying to “micromanage” the system by offering comprehensive menstrual care to female inmates. 

Despite Pickett’s opposition, the committee voted 6-4 to recommend the bill’s passage. All four no votes were by Republican lawmakers.

During the hearing testimony, Whitney Parrish, the director of policy and program for the Maine Women’s Lobby, explained just how integral access to free menstrual products is for incarcerated women.

“You’re given a limited supply of menstrual products per month, often of low quality due to cost saving, and when you run out, you’re out,” Parrish said of incarcerated women’s experiences. “You may have no money to go to commissary, and if you do, you may have to weigh that purchase against other necessities, like making phone calls to your children or attorney.”

“Without adequate access to clean and hygienic menstrual products, you may face serious health consequences,” she continued. “This happens every single month, and for some with irregular cycles, more frequently. Menstrual products are not a luxury item by any means.” 

Four states and New York City have legislation that ensures incarcerated women have access to free menstrual products. Although inmates have the option to purchase these products from their facility’s commissary, most women aren’t able to afford them on their in-prison salary which is often less than a dollar an hour.

Clarification: A previous version of this story mischaracterized the measure’s advancement as passing to the state Senate. 

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