Bill would provide feminine hygiene products to Missouri incarcerated women

      House members are renewing an effort to make sure all county and municipal jails provide free feminine hygiene products to the women they hold. 

      Federal and state institutions, as well as some local jails, already provide those products to female offenders at no cost.  House Bill 318, sponsored by Representative Bruce DeGroot (R-Ellisville), would codify that requirement for state institutions, and county and city jails. 

Representative Bruce DeGroot (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      “You’re forcing women … to choose between using their commissary accounts to buy feminine hygiene as opposed to Kit Kats or even worse yet, making a choice between phoning home and talking to their children,” said DeGroot.  “This isn’t a Republican or a Democrat issue.  It’s an issue of human decency, human dignity.”

      Elizabeth Weiss, director of Missouri Appleseed, told the House Committee on Corrections and Public Institutions that the lack of proper products is a health concern.  Women were making their own products, often using material like toilet paper rolls.

      “In the Department of Corrections when tampons [weren’t] provided, over 80-percent of the women reported making their own homemade tampons, and of those 27-percent reported infections, and we had similar data from St. Louis County,” said Weiss.

      DeGroot noted that these health problems also increase the state’s costs for caring for incarcerated women, so passing this bill could save money for the state and local governments.

      He believes the cost to the state to provide these products would be less than $200,000 a year.

      “It truly is such an insignificant amount of money of our whole budget to give just a small amount of dignity to these women,” said DeGroot.

      DeGroot said some oppose the idea, saying women could use tampons to hide contraband.  He rejects that argument.

      “The federal penitentiaries all provide tampons.  Our Missouri Department of Corrections [facilities] all provide tampons, as do St. Louis County and St. Louis City, whose wardens have all written in support of this bill, so I just don’t know that it’s a huge issue.”

      Similar legislation in the past two years has not become law.  The effort began, in part, with the passage of the federal First Step Act.  Among other provisions, it provided for free feminine hygiene products in federal institutions.

      The committee has not voted on the bill.

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DeGroot does not include the “oo” sound = [de-GROTE)

Weiss rhymes with mice = [wice]