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Richard Pickett said incarcerated women shouldn’t get free menstrual products. But basic medical care isn’t a perk—it’s a human right.

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Earlier this month legislators in Maine voted on a bill amendment that would guarantee incarcerated people access to menstrual products. It’s a good idea: While a federal lawensures that federal prisons offer free pads and tampons, that’s not the case at state and local facilities, where supplies are often limited and women are forced to either devise their own solutions or scrounge together funds to purchase the items at the commissary.

However, four Republicans balked at the proposal and voted against it. Here’s how state representative and Dixfield police chief Richard Pickett put it, according to a reporter who was on the scene: Incarcerated women shouldn’t get more access to menstrual products because “the jail system and the correctional system was never meant to be a country club.”

Alex Acquisto, a statehouse reporter for The Bangor Daily News, quoted Pickett in a tweet. Per Acquisto’s account, Pickett argued that women already have all the menstrual products they need.

“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…. [T]hey have a right to have these and they have them. If that wasn’t the case, then I would be supporting the motion, but they do,” Pickett said, as cited in a tweet from Acquisto.

According to the Press Herald, several jails in Maine already provide free menstrual products, but incarcerated women have to request them. The proposed legislation would make the pads and tampons more freely available, and there would be no limit on the number that women could have at one time.

Whitney Parrish, a director at the Maine Women’s Lobby, broke it down for critics, according to the Maine Beacon.

“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…. You may have no money to go to the commissary, and if you do, you may have to weigh that purchase against other necessities, like making phone calls to your children or attorney. You are forced to make the impossible decision of constructing your own menstrual products, using anything from clothing or notebook paper in place of a tampon,” she said.

Luckily, most saw it as Parrish does. A 6-4 vote allowed the bill amendment to advance, proving that most people understand that basic women’s health care isn’t a luxe perk. It’s a human right.

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Political Prisoners

Welcome to the blog from inmates of Maine's jails and prisons.

In collaboration with the Holistic Recovery Project, the Political Prisoners Blog provides a prisoner's view into what's happening at Maine's correctional facilities.

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