If you think getting your period is a pain, imagine getting it in prison. “The lack of sanitary supplies is so bad in women’s prisons that I have seen pads fly right out of an inmate’s pants,” Chandra Bozelko writes in The Guardian of the wingless, small, and not-so-adhesive pads female inmates are given. Bozelko spent six years at York Correctional Institution in Connecticut, where bunkmates received five pads per week to split. (They’re also used off-label as makeshift shower shoes to avoid fungus and mold, as eye masks in facilities with constant bright lights, and as cleaning supplies.) But even when inmates save them, with only ten per month, they can expect to wear a single pad for multiple days.
Bozelko avoided the problem by fashioning a diaper with six pads quilted together after purchasing extras from the commissary. But most inmates can’t afford to buy pads ($2.63 for a 24-pack) when they’re spending the 75 cents they earn for a day’s work on other necessities like deodorant (which costs $1.93, three days' pay), toothpaste ($1.50, two days' pay), or food that’s more edible than what’s offered in the dining hall. At some prisons, prices are higher, with eight tampons costing $4.23 thanks to a privatized commissary. But even when inmates have the money to buy feminine hygiene supplies, commissaries routinely understock and women are left waiting for a week or two, rendering the pads irrelevant for another month. Toilet paper is also rationed, so crafting homemade toilet-paper pads means forgoing wiping.