Arizona Capitol

Naturally, a Man Takes Credit as Tampon Bill Leads to Policy Change

T.J. Shope (left) and Athena Salman (right) are both claiming victory for a recent policy change at the Arizona Department of Corrections.
T.J. Shope (left) and Athena Salman (right) are both claiming victory for a recent policy change at the Arizona Department of Corrections. Arizona House of Representatives
You’ve heard this one before, right? A woman comes up with an idea, and a man takes credit for it.

Over at the Arizona Capitol, that familiar dynamic is currently playing out in a discussion about feminine hygiene supplies.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Arizona Department of Corrections announced that they're revising their policies to increase the number of pads that female inmates get every month from 12 to 36. If needed, women can also receive additional pads for free.

"Every human being deserves respect, and I applaud @AZCorrections for revising their policy to provide female inmates with as many feminine hygiene products as they need," State Representative T.J. Shope, not previously known as a champion for menstrual equity, wrote on Twitter. "When I became aware of this issue, I reached out to ADC and urged them to change the policy and they now have!"

Buried at the bottom of the Coolidge Republican's companion press release was an acknowledgement that no one would even be talking about incarcerated women’s access to menstrual supplies in the first place if Representative Athena Salman hadn't introduced a bill on the subject.

Salman, a Democrat from Tempe, had originally sought to provide unlimited tampons and pads to female inmates. Shope refused to give the bill a hearing in the House Rules committee, effectively killing it.

"I also want to thank Representative Athena Salman for bringing this to the public’s attention," Shope concluded his self-congratulatory press release. "Her determination and perseverance on this issue has certainly made a difference.”

Under the Department of Corrections' revised policy, incarcerated women still won’t receive free tampons — only pads. Salman says that she has a commitment from the governor's office to explore the possibility of changing that. Inmates can already purchase tampons from the prison commissary, but the fact that they earn as little as 15 cents an hour means that they're often forced to choose between basic hygiene supplies and phone calls home.

In a press release of her own, Salman described the policy change as "a huge victory for women."

But, she also added, "While this is welcome news, in the future we would like to see this new policy codified in a way that can't be undone by a new director or governor."
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Antonia Noori Farzan is a staff writer at New Times and an honors graduate of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. Before moving to Arizona, she worked for the New Times Broward-Palm Beach.