Women are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. prison population. In Maryland, the female inmate population has more than tripled since 1978. Yet correctional facilities have fallen short in responding to the unique personal hygiene needs of this population –specifically, granting them free access to menstrual products.
In a Dec. 9 post on Human Rights at Home Blog, student-attorneys in the UB School of Law’s Bronfein Family Law Clinic, writing under the guidance of the clinic director, Professor Margaret Johnson, described successes they and others have had in changing the law to require free access to menstrual products for inmates who need them.
“As of February 2018, Maryland did not have a law requiring the provision of menstrual products to those who were incarcerated,” they wrote. “Due to the need for products in Maryland’s prison and jails, legislators sponsored a bill in the Maryland General Assembly requiring the provision of menstrual products for persons who are incarcerated.”
The bill passed the legislature and was signed into law by Gov. Larry Hogan. As of Oct. 1, 2018, Maryland correctional facilities are legally required to maintain a sufficient supply of free menstrual products. “With this new law, Maryland became a leader in the country with this initiative of making menstrual products available, at no cost, and with unfettered access,” the students wrote.
This fall, the clinic student-attorneys filed multiple public information act requests with county detention centers across Maryland, to obtain their policies and ensure compliance with the new law. They also prepared a model policy for facilities who request it.
As of November 2018, 21 states now require the provision of menstrual products to incarcerated persons. On the federal level, comparable legislation has yet to make it out of committee.
Student authors of the blog post were Katherine Haladay, J.D. ’19; Alexis Holiday, J.D. ’19; Alexis Sisolak, J.D. ’19, and Makeda Curbeam, J.D. ’19.