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Colorado House approves bill to provide tampons, pads to women in jail

Under the bill, women in custody will need to be provided products immediately and free of charge.
Credit: Corky Scholl, KUSA

DENVER, Colorado — The Colorado House on Wednesday approved a bill to provide menstrual hygiene products to women who are in custody immediately and free of charge.

Current policies in some county jails only provide limited menstrual hygiene products to inmates, while others provide none. HB 19-1224 will require all local jails, multi-jurisdictional jails and municipal jails to provide menstrual hygiene products to women in custody at no expense.

The bill passed by a unanimous vote of 65-0 and now heads to the Senate. 

RELATED: Tampons are already free for inmates in Colorado state prisons, but a new bill would make them free in local jails too

“Women’s bodies are different,” said Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, who sponsored the bill. “We need to ensure that we are treating all women, especially those that are in custody, with the respect and dignity that they deserve.”

Two years ago, legislators approved funds in the Department of Corrections budget to give women tampons in state prisons, but it took an activist spending time in a county jail to get this new bill on the table.

In February, anti-jail activist Elisabeth Epps spent 16 nights in the Arapahoe County Jail after being convicted of interfering with police. She had her period on the first day.

RELATED: Q&A: Abolitionist Elisabeth Epps on day 14 of her jail sentence

When State Rep. Leslie Herod (D-Denver) heard Epps was required to order tampons through commissary, and then wait for the shipment, she introduced a bill to change that.

"Some women are provided some types of sanitary products," Herod said. "It is inconsistent across counties. That may be a pad. That may be a liner. That may be toilet paper.”

When lawmakers approved $40,000 in the DOC budget to go toward tampons in state prisons, Herod said if there were lawmakers against it, they weren't loud.

"There was quiet opposition," she said. "I think it's hard for people to talk about these issues publicly. I say if you can't say the word tampon, you don't deserve the right to regulate it."

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