RICHMOND, Va. (CBS Local) — Virginia has suspended a new policy that would have barred women who visit inmates at state prisons from wearing tampons or menstrual cups.
The abrupt reversal followed widespread criticism of a plan by the state’s Department of Corrections to ban tampons starting Oct. 6, as a way to prevent contraband – including drugs – from being smuggled into prisons.
“A number of concerns have been raised about the new procedure,” Virginia Secretary of Public and Homeland Security Safety Brian Moran said Tuesday on Twitter. “I have ordered its immediate suspension until further review.”
The tampon ban was intended to protect the safety of prisoners following the deaths of some inmates from drug overdoses, prison spokeswoman Lisa Kinney said before the policy was suspended.
“There have been many instances in which visitors have attempted to smuggle drugs into our prisons by concealing those drugs in a body cavity, including the vagina,” Kinney told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Kinney said it was decided that facilities would offer pads to women who are wearing tampons while visiting a prison, so the tampons do not appear as possible contraband on a body scan.
But inmate advocates blasted the policy, saying it violates the privacy rights of female visitors.
“That’s such a violation,” said Jana White, a co-founder of the Virginia Coalition for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, who regularly visits an inmate in Waverly, Va. “I can’t understand why we, the loved ones, have to go through this,” she said.
ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Claire Gastanaga said the policy should be dropped permanently rather than simply suspended.
“Helping people who are housed in jail or prison stay connected to friends, families, and communities is critical to rehabilitation and eventual, successful re-entry to society,” she wrote on Twitter Monday. “Any policy that discourages visitors is, therefore, one that should be subject to the most exacting and careful review.”